What We Do
Another Day with my dog guide
By Ann Chiappetta
Each day at lunch I pocket my mobile phone, some cash, and harness up my dog. She stands while I put on her harness and leash. After gearing up we exit the office.
We walk to the steps, she stops to indicate them, and as soon as I tap the top of the step with a shoe, she leads me down, and we swing open the door and out on to the sidewalk. We turn on the auto pilot and reach the left turn across a four lane intersection. I wait for the light to change, counting the seconds after the last chirp of the audible pedestrian signal. When I hear the traffic surge, I say ‘forward’ and we start across the street. As soon as my foot reaches the ramped curb on the opposite side,
Verona stops and I hear,
“Hi, is your dog a working dog?”
As I groan inwardly, thinking, oh, boy, here we go again, I put on a smile and tell Verona to sit while the big, brown dog he’s walking tries to make his doggie acquaintance. The dog is excited, panting and pacing but the man keeps him from disturbing my dog.
We exchange pleasantries, and move on to our destination, the dog relief area just one more block away. It is a great, clean place with a waste bag dispenser that is never out of bags.
As we walk up the sidewalk, I hear more dogs and their owners but all is well. Verona directs me to the dispenser with a targeting command and I remove her harness, extend her leash, and she does her business.
Once she’s done and harnessed up, I say ‘forward’ and turn back to the way we came so we can find the trash and go get lunch. Suddenly, she stops and I hear the patter of small paws and the jingle of a leash. The woman at the other end of it realizes her dog has decided to play kissy face with Verona and my dog is trying to go around it but it keeps cutting us off. I call this the doggie side step, as we often get nowhere until the other person recalls their dog. I think, as I often do, that a flexible leash is not as great as the inventor hoped it would be. The woman is very apologetic and retrieves her dog so we can move on.
Okay, I think, today is a great day to praise my dog, as she has ignored not one, but two dogs while working. As we walk across another wide four lane intersection, I tell her, “Good dog”, and I know her tail is up. Swaying proudly.
We walk another block and enter the mall.
I love working my dog, passing each day and year with a better understanding for one another and strengthening the bond. I often wonder what my next dog will be like, as we are coming up on our fifth year together. I think it’s normal to think about these things, as it prepares me for the time we must part as a team and allow another dog to step in to lead me.
Verona guides me down the ramp, and angles us toward the door to the restaurant. Like clockwork, the little white fuzz ball in the vitamin store begins his barking and as usual, Verona ignores him. I hear his owner telling him to be quiet and wonder if the mall actually allows pets inside. We navigate among the chairs and tables and stand on line to order and pay for lunch. Then we weave out of the store, pass the barking dog, up the ramp, and out into the sunshine.
Once we are back in the office, the gear comes off and Verona drinks some water and takes a snooze while I eat.
This is a typical day – whether its dog distractions, traffic checks, construction or a street fair, we face it all together. It’s times like this that I feel fortunate to work with a guide dog. We have the freedom to go about our business in a way that I’d never known with a white cane. I have good travel skills and now that Verona and I are a solid working team, most traveling is routine.
There are times when even traveling with a dog guide is tough. I try not to take on more than we can handle so we stay safe. Some serious obstacles would be unfamiliar, busy intersections with traffic and multiple lane crossings, a round about and other similar situations.
In Canada, for instance, the downtown Ontario streets and sidewalks are blended so there aren’t any curbs. The curbs are indicated by the visual markers of alternating cobblestones and a thin line showing where the curb is. We had to work for a whole day on that challenge, as I couldn’t even really feel it with my foot or cane tip. What possesses folks to do things like this? I’m sure it looks great, but curbs are there to give drivers and pedestrian’s both clues of where the street ends and the sidewalk begins.
I could go on about these inconveniences but don’t want to bore readers any more than I have already. Suffice it to say that I find the challenges more manageable with my dog and when in doubt, I find a willing person to help.