Verona and I have been a team for a little over four years now and she still surprises me with her ability to problem solve and keep us safe, both admirable traits in a guide dog. It’s hard to convey the way we walk and work together. It’s like riding horseback – if you haven’t ever done it, you just don’t know what it feels like. So, I will try, through the written word, to provide a piece of it.
Okay, as we walk down the city street, I can feel her pace through the harness handle. It bobs gently in my hand. As she swerves to avoid a sunken part of the sidewalk, she pushes me to the right, then back to the center of the side walk. When she stops at the curb, the braking runs up the handle and stops me.
We wait for the light to change. I say forward, she doesn’t move. I say it again, she doesn’t move. I know there is something afoot, as she is refusing to go forward, obviously perceiving something potentially dangerous to me. I wait and listen. Someone pushes past and steps down into the street. I hear the unmistakable rocking, metal clunk of a loose steel plate. I look down at it, just to my right, and it’s where I would step down into the street. I praise her, realizing if I stepped there, I could have fallen, twisted an ankle, or worse. She seems to say, mom, sometimes you are so dense. Then she repositions us and when I say forward, she pulls me left and we step around the plate into the street. Now, she had to make some decisions, to take me off the ramp access, where the plate was and a little out of the cross walk to keep me safe.
That’s a typical day with a Guiding Eyes dog and this is why I write about it. Real life experiences from a working team helps folks appreciate and understand the intricacies of guide work. My hope is that by offering these pieces of insight into a working team, our Guiding Eyes family will grow along with each and every volunteer and donation.
I am very grateful for my dog, her ability to take charge, and the way in which she does it – with a serious but calm manner, her tail wagging as she walks.