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February 22nd, 2011

the dog guide at home

When I talk to people about my dogs, they often assume that my dogs are by my side 24 hours a day. Since Loretta is currently rolling on the floor at the opposite end of the house, I suppose it is a good time to debunk this myth.

I have had dogs in the past who preferred to hang out near me when they were off duty. Loretta is not one of them. Perhaps this is because she feels secure and likes to amuse herself where there is lots of space (in the living room). On the other hand, perhaps she just needs a break from me. I sure need a break from being around the same person after so much time!

Loretta doesn't exactly make her work easy. She is extremely in tune with my emotions as well as my physical state. I have chronic pain and neurological conditions in addition to blindness; and these things affect the way that I travel. None of this tuning is a part of Loretta's training; but she chooses to set her pace according to her apparent opinion of my safety needs. She is always right. I imagine this makes her life a bit more stressful than it might be if she was simply guiding--she is thinking about more than just her guiding responsibilities.

She also engages in this tuning behavior at home. If I am talking on the phone and my voice gets animated for any reason, she will come and check me out to see if I am ok. If I am just excited, I give her a clear-to-play signal, or include her in the excitement, and she settles down. If I am painful or upset, she will stay with me until I settle down. I suspect this also increases her stress level, and she certainly deserves and needs her lounge time in the other room. And I am certainly all right without her.

Oh, and by the way, Loretta is also used to being tripped over... She doesn't exactly go out of her way to get up when I come through the area. This is a trait that all of my dogs have shared. I think they must be doing their best to convince the worle that either dog guides aren't really so fragile or else that blind people aren't exempt from having to get around whatever is in our way. People seem to make a habit of jumping in front of me to clear things out of my path that they're afraid I will trip over... I might trip over the person one day... Perhaps it would be a good idea to take a lesson from Loretta. I have quite a bit of experience getting around objects--and beings--that don't move out of my way.

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3kitties
Sarah Blake LaRose
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