Last week, Buttons and I went to NYC to visit my coworkers at BarkPost. I was very concerned that Buttons would be distracted by the city and by the office dogs. I was worried he wouldn’t be able to help me as much as I needed him to. I spoke with other service dog handlers who said experiencing a lapse in training was not uncommon in such a different environment.
Although he was distracted by the occasional delicious smelling trash can, he did great. He helped me dodge people and judge curbs so flawlessly I doubt anyone noticed he was doing it.
But we had one problem. Poop. (and pee.)
First, Let Me Tell You Something About Shibas
Shibas hate to be dirty. Shibas hate their own pee and their own poop. I know some Shibas who won’t poop within a mile of their own home. No, I am not exaggerating. Buttons practically flies away from his poop when he’s done. He can’t stand to be near it. He would rather take a bath every day than go to the bathroom inside, be it his house or any other building.
Shibas also tend to be very private about their business. There have been times where Buttons will be in squat position but a stranger will walk by and he will stop and refuse to poop for the rest of the walk – just in case that stranger comes back and watches him poop.
And Then There’s This Thing With Service Dogs
Obviously, service dogs won’t go to the bathroom inside. Most of them know how to go on command. Not only does Buttons have the natural Shiba instinct to avoid accidents, he also knows it’s not appropriate while he’s working.
Here’s Where We Got Into A Problem
Apparently, Buttons’ definition of “inside” is very broad. Inside equals anything with a large amount of people wandering about where there is not a clearly defined area where people are not walking.
We spent our trip in NYC in Chinatown. There were very few trees, which is different from when we lived in Brooklyn. Buttons refused to pee or poop. Our first night there, he looked at me completely confused when I told him to “go potty.” It was this look of “Mom, wtf?! This is “inside!” I can’t pee inside!!”
This isn’t the first time this has happened. We had the same issue at a Renaissance Festival a few months ago. There was grass everywhere, but there were also people everywhere. Everything seemed like “inside” to him. We finally found an out of the way spot, but he kept giving me the “this is inside!” look until he finally gave in and went.
In NYC, he would hold it in until he couldn’t take it anymore and then he would go right in the middle of the sidewalk. The first time he did it, the poor guy was shaking like a leaf because he thought he was doing something horrible.
This was embarrassing at times because I’m sure some people thought that he wasn’t a “real” service dog because he was randomly popping a squat in the middle of the street… and when I say middle of the street, I mean it.
On a walk to a restaurant with my coworkers, Buttons drops some turds IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUSY CROSSWALK. I’m mortified thinking “How am I going to pick up this poop when there are cars coming? But if I don’t pick up this poop people will hate me.” and then “OMG my dog just pooped in the middle of the street.” Meanwhile I can tell Buttons is thinking “OMG I just pooped in the middle of the street. This is so GROSS.”
So, my Editor-in-Chief calmly says “I’ll get it” and she cooly walks over and scoops up the Shiba-poop while dodging glares from everyone who walks by.
I am indebted to her for the rest of my life.
I’ve talked to some other service dog handlers about this and they all think this is hysterical and are too busy (lovingly) laughing at this situation to offer advice.
Basically, my only issue with my dog is that he’s too polite. Send help.