Owning a guide dog can be an empowering, life-changing experience and one that brings many rewards. But it is not always about straight walking. It can, on occasions, be a tasty bone of contention.
When you walk into a store, your faithful pooch trotting happily by your side, things can go surprisingly quiet. Suddenly, like the curtain being raised, you feel like you are on show with the audience glued. Aha, the performance has begun, bring on the ice lollies. As you begin walking around contentedly browsing, shoppers one by one, come up and talk. No, no, no, not to you…to your dog. You have vanished, whoosh, an invisible walk on part.
Me, me, me
Centre stage, spotlight full on. It’s all about paws, claws and tails. And with anyone you might not have bumped into recently – conversation isn’t going to be about your work, hobbies, sport, or even your health. ‘Hey, how’s your handsome friend?’ You now feel like the unnamed actor…standing next to A-list Slobberchops.
It’s not fair play!
I don’t want to sound too dogmatic, but most people, when concentrating on their job, don’t like to be distracted. It usually means they don’t concentrate quite as well and make mistakes. Your dog has just been told, by you, that he is now at work, donning his harness, his uniform, he must put away drooling thoughts of tearing round the park with his friends…but with all this star-studded attention, he’s fighting the urge not to thump his tail and romp around the clock.
Hair of the dog
If you’re wearing a suit, and you’re off to a business meeting or interview, your bold attempts to be taken seriously might get chewed up a bit…as your new boss studies the layer of fur you are wearing, even on a hot summer day…dog hair clinging to your clothing.
Ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog
You can never underestimate the intelligence of your hound…but no, it has no clue if it is safe to cross the road. It is you who makes the decision to proceed, giving the command to go, based on listening to the sounds of traffic. Your dog will disobey because it senses it is unsafe to cross.
Then come the times when you get asked if you are training your dog, or you find doors get opened for you without anyone saying a word! There will always be those who run away in fear at the sight of four furry legs. Now, let’s be serious, if it’s your own furry legs on display you might well understand why you get pushed out of the way on the underground or priority seats are not given up to you, but….
Give a dog a bone…
And the friendliest of taxi drivers might dig in their heels, bare their teeth and refuse to take your dog, no matter how much you growl on about the Equality Act. Honestly, you feel like a school teacher.
Now you see me…now you don’t
“You don’t look blind!” This is a baffling one. You’re out and about enjoying yourself with friends, when a stranger pipes up, “It’s great that you’re out drinking!” It’s a doggone mystery, I still haven’t worked it out.
It’s equally baffling how many extend their arm and secretly stroke your dog, assuming that having a guide dog means you can’t see anything. Aha, they’ve got away with it, they think you’ll never know! Silly secret strokers, guess what, I do!
Of course, there are great benefits in having a guide dog.
You get to meet some interesting people, whom you would never have met before. If they don’t remember you, they’ll certainly remember your four-legged friend. Complete strangers can be so helpful.
I have also tripled my walking speed, because when he’s excited, he walks quicker…leaving me doing the panting…
And I no longer have to worry so much about bumping into people and objects, my guide dog has certainly taken the lead…
If you, or someone you know is considering becoming a guide dog owner, please use this link to find out more https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/getting-support/