Why you need to let assistance dogs get on with their job
WHEN Hervey Bay's Mark Grimsley has a fall, Tia the border collie lies beside him and helps push him up when he's ready by burrowing her nose under his arm pit.
Tia instinctively knows when Mr Grimsley is about to start shaking and becoming disoriented, so she takes him to sit somewhere quiet.
It's all in a day's work for Tia who is a trained assistance dog.
Like anyone with an important job, she needs to be able to concentrate.
Mr Grimsley suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a conversion disorder where his body converts stress into a physical symptom.
It came after an incident during a deployment in Afghanistan when Mr Grimsley was working as an aircraft life support fitter for the air force in 2000.
Mr Grimsley has regular falls, gets the shakes and can become confused.
Tia has been by Mr Grimsley's side for the past six years and while most days people are understanding - about the dog's duty of care and respect she can't be handled -a recent experience ended differently.
On a recent trip to the shop, Mr Grimsley said he was pushed in the chest when he asked a guy nicely to ask his young son not to touch the dog.
"He said the kid didn't know any better. He pushed me in the chest and swore at me,” Mr Grimsley said.
Mr Grimsley started shaking and the man and his child took off.
It took him about a week and a half to build up the courage to go back out in public again, which is already difficult for Mr Grimsley.
Mr Grimsley, who understands natural affection for animals from others, wants to stress to the community that the dogs are doing a job even when they're sitting down with their owner.
"If you distract them it limits the capability of the dog and the handler and they (the dog) can miss the window of opportunity,” he said.
He usually wears a shirt explaining that he has an assistance dog and to please not touch or distract the animal.