CALDWELL, Idaho — Tony Eason worked in law enforcement for 20 years, most of those as a deputy with the Ada County Sheriff's Office, but in 2006 he lost his leg in an accident and then retired in 2018.
"I needed something because my life went down the drain because of depression and suicidal ideations," said Eason. "I had my bought with suicide in 2018 and after that, I knew I needed a dog to help me psychologically and physically."
Tony Eason retired after 20 years in law enforcement, but depression and anxiety almost led to him killing himself in 2018. Then Tony got a service dog which has made a tremendous difference, but he also wants the public to know the dog has a job to do so don't bother them. pic.twitter.com/VzYDcOEYwT— Idaho News 6 (@IdahoNews6) September 24, 2021
Tony got a trained Belgium Malinois named Opie and his wife Amber has seen the difference not only in the tasks O.P. does but also how the dog watches after Tony.
"For instance, Opie has learned Tony's body chemistry he knows when his meds are off he can smell when anxiety is starting to creep in sometimes before Tony knows it," said Amber Rollins. "He’s able to kind of intervene, he’s able to kind of defuse situations."
But during trips to the grocery store or big box stores this family has had several bad experiences with people wanting to pet their dog, Opie's tail has been run over by shopping carts and sometimes other dogs interfere with the job Opie is trying to do.
"Just act like we are not even there, pretend we are not even there because no matter how you come up or approach his attention shifts from me to whoever it is that is disrupting us," said Eason. "He’s working all the time so I need him like somebody needs a wheelchair."
It is easy to spot a service dog because they need to be marked with a vest or something that informs the public that it is a working dog and this family asks to be left alone in public.
"It has been eye-opening for me the last two years being on the day-to-day front of somebody with a service dog with how many people interrupt and how many people bring their dog that doesn't have any manners," said Rollins.
The couple also tells that they've experienced several instances of people trying to pass off their dog as a service dog when they believe the dog isn't trained, they point to the dog's behavior as a way to spot a fake.
But according to the American Disabilities Act, businesses are not allowed to inquire about a disability or the status of a service dog, establishments can ask what tasks a service dog performs but exclude dogs from their places of business if they pose a direct safety or health risk.
"The moral of the story is just let my dog or anybody who has a service dog do their job," said Eason.