PERRYSBURG, Ohio — A Waterville woman who needs a service dog to navigate her daily life left a message on Facebook that garnered hundreds of comments about where dogs should or should not be allowed in public.
Sara Soper is blind and relies on her dog, Vivi.
In the past, she has had two guide dogs attacked in public by other people's pets and now, she wants people to know what kind of training pets should have to go in public places.
At only two years old. Vivi navigates the grocery store with Soper close behind. She's focused, watching people and objects making sure Sarah can safely get her groceries and get home.
"There is a time and a place for dogs. Like I said, I'm not going to know if you have your dog in the store, there could be five dogs in the store and I wouldn't know unless they were reacting to my dog," Soper said.
Soper and her dog work as a team. Vivi is trained not to respond to everyday distractions such as food and people.
Soper says she has noticed a lot more dogs out that don't give Vivi space to work, which creates a dangerous environment for both of them.
"I'm not the dog police. I'm not going to come up to you and see if your dog has the right to be in a store, I am going to go after you if your dog comes after my dog because what you're doing is making it dangerous for service dog handlers," Soper said.
Professional dog trainer Melissa Jarrett says socialization is important and she has noticed more places allowing dogs, but there are things you need to do before taking your dog out.
"I need to know that I have control over my dog, that if a situation arises I can re-gain control of my dog before it escalates into something bad," Jarrett said.
Even as a professional trainer with 15 dogs, Jarrett still has one dog she knows, despite its training, shouldn't be going out, even to dog-friendly stores.
"They're still dogs, I still don't know if a person in a wheelchair or a child running up to them is going to do to them, and I think I know my dogs pretty well and I'm really careful about where I take them and I'm always similar with my surroundings when I go in," Jarrett said.
Soper realizes that these days, she and Vivi are going to come into contact with other dogs day-to-day. She says she wants people to be educated about why dogs like Vivi are allowed where other people's pets might not be.
"My dog does more for me than I can ever repay her for or do for her. She's closer to me than about anything in my life," Soper said.