CALDWELL, Idaho – Tony Eason worked in law enforcement for 20 years, most of them as a deputy to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, but he lost his leg in an accident in 2006 and retired in 2018.
“I needed something because my life was going down the drain with depression and suicidal thoughts,” Eason said. “I bought mine with Suicide in 2018 and after that I knew I needed a dog that would help me mentally and physically.”
Tony Eason retired after 20 years in law enforcement, but depression and anxiety almost resulted in him killing himself in 2018. Then Tony got a service dog who made a tremendous difference but he also wants the public to know the dog has a job so don’t do this, don’t bother them. pic.twitter.com/VzYDcOEYwT
– Idaho News 6 (@ IdahoNews6) September 24, 2021
Tony has a trained Belgian Malinois named Opie and his wife Amber saw the difference not only in the duties of the operating room, but also in the way the dog watches over Tony.
“For example, Opie learned Tony’s body chemistry, which he knows after his medication is off. He can sometimes smell when fear creeps in before Tony knows it,” said Amber Rollins. “He can intervene somehow, he can somehow defuse situations.”
Idaho law and the American Disabilities Act allow people with disabilities to take their dogs into public places where dogs are not normally allowed.
But during trips to the grocery store or large physical stores, this family has had some bad experiences with people trying to pet their dog, shopping carts run over Opie’s tail, and sometimes other dogs interfere with the work Opie is trying to do.
“Just pretend we’re not even there, pretending we’re not even there because no matter how you show up or approach, his attention shifts from me to whoever is bothering us,” Eason said. “He works all the time, so I need him like someone needs a wheelchair.”
A service dog is easy to spot because it needs to be tagged with a vest or something that will inform the public that it is a working dog and ask that family to be left alone in public.
“It has opened my eyes for the past two years to be at the front of someone with a service dog, how many people interrupt them and how many people bring their dog who has no manners,” Rollins said.
The couple also relates that they have seen multiple instances where people tried to pass their dog off as a service dog if they believed the dog was untrained. They point out the dog’s behavior in order to spot a fake.
But under the American Disabilities Act, corporations are not allowed to make inquiries about a disability or service dog status, facilities can ask what duties a service dog performs, but exclude dogs from their operations if they pose a direct safety or health risk.
“The moral of the story is that I just let my dog or anyone who has a service dog do their job,” Eason said.