For the last 15 months, Golden Retriever Harlow has been grabbing the attention of Instagram followers everywhere by showing off her new and developing skills as a service dog. Harlow can close the dishwasher, put away laundry, and even grab water bottles from the refrigerator. And almost every day, she acquires more skills and responsibilities.
Harlow’s owner, 20-year old Florida resident Jaquie Blake, has an autonomic nervous system disorder called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS. She is also afflicted with migraines, narcolepsy, dizziness and frequent fainting spells.
Luckily for Jaquie, Harlow is a trained service dog who never leaves her side. The dog offers medical alert and mobility services. She assists Blake with things outside her physical limitations, and alerts her when she senses that something medically bad may happen.
Blake attributes much of her freedom to Harlow, saying that she could never leave the house by herself, pursue a college education, or (eventually) pursue her dream career as an occupational therapist. From the time Blake started an Instagram account tracking Harlow’s progress until now (about a year later), the account has garnered more than 103,000 followers, and counting.
People seem to be absolutely enamored with the dog’s role and abilities. She can get her own leash, and pick up almost anything Blake drops. She helps her owner retrieve items from the bottom shelf at the grocery store, and even get bottles of water from the fridge – and it's all documented on Harlow's Instagram account.
The bottled water videos are the most popularly watched. They show Blake saying, “Water bottle, I’m thirsty.” Harlow then opens the fridge, gets the bottle of water, brings it to her owner, then goes back to the fridge to shut it. Blake states that this is an important function, due to the fact that sometimes she is too fizzy or in too much pain to do this by herself, but still needs to take her medication.
One adorable video also shows Harlow getting Blake a blanket when she’s cold.
Blake urges people to be aware that service dogs are not just for people in wheelchairs; they help people who have “invisible illnesses,” which are tough to spot. Thanks to spreading popularity of Harlow’s Instagram page, more and more people are rapidly gaining awareness about service dogs and how vital and helpful they are.
Social media is an essential tool in raising awareness and educating others about developments such as service animals. It is not yet something commonly understood by most people, but it is important that the awareness be out there.
Business owners in industries such as food and hospitality should understand that service dogs are just as much of a medical device as a wheelchair or pacemaker, and they should allow service animals on-site unquestioningly. Unfortunately, that doesn't always happen. Dogs like Harlow are changing that trend, though.
Unlike emotional support or therapy dogs, service dogs are considered medical equipment and are permitted into places even if pets are not. This is due to the fact they require advanced (18-24 months) training. Business and property owners are only allowed to ask two questions of the owners: “Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?” and, “What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?”
Aside from that, all other information about the owner’s medical condition or the dog’s function are considered private medical information. One can read articles and facts and statistics about service animals and still not quite grasp their importance and abilities; but one glance at a video or two of Harlow in action is enough to forge an instantaneous understanding of how service dogs improve the quality of life for the humans they assist.
I think social media truly is the answer to quickly and effectively raising awareness. Jaquie Blake does an amazing job at using pictures and videos to demonstrate the value and necessity that service dogs like Harlow have to the lives of their owners, who absolutely need them.