Sarah Blake LaRose (3kitties) wrote,
Sarah Blake LaRose

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thoughts about dogs and the NFB and the end of training

sophiahagia posted a great entry about an old issue of The Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, and her introduction to the organization and dog guides in general. The issue was supposed to provide a balanced perspective; and in fairness, the editors tried to include both positive and negative articles. However, in balancing perspectives, it is important to note that the degree of negativity or positivity of one or two presentations can skew the entire thing. The initial presentations in the October, 1995, Braille Monitor were so negative that they left me with the impression that the true feelings of the organization's leadership dictated organizational policy and slanted it quite negatively against dog guide users. This mattered to me because it affected the way the organization as a whole advocated for me as a member of the dog guide user community. It also made me feel betrayed. There was no more sense of unity among blind people. In fact, some of them had the same absolute disdain for dog guides that sighted people had and the same reasons: they might set off someone's allergies, mess up the hardwood floors, tear up belongings, attack someone, etc. With this kind of division in the blind community, how could i expect sighted people to become more accepting of dogs?

Unfortunately, this is an age-old battle. Seeing Eye graduates fought it 80 years ago. Sadly, it was most represented by blind people who were employed in rehabilitation work. The attitude back then was that one didn't need a dirty, irresponsible dog to guide when one could be perfectly happy sitting and working in a sheltered workshop. Now it's a bit different: one doesn't need a poorly behaved dog when a particular type of cane will do just as well. What was never presented in that issue was the list of true differences between dog and cane travel. There are advantages and disadvantages to both; and a truly fair discussion should present them--and present them with full knowledge that it really does not matter whether one's cane is straight or folding or long or average any more than it matters whether one's dog is a Lab or shepherd except as it suits personal needs. (I notice that NFB sells folding and telescoping canes. Isn't that interesting?) The problem that I have with the NFB is that one size is supposed to fit all. I've never been and never will be a one-size-fits-all person.

My cane can give me information that my dog cannot. My dog can cause me to get out of autopilot mode and take notice at the tops of stairs because she has stopped. My dog can stop in front of a hybrid car that I will not hear turning right in front of me on the way across a five-lane street. Like it or not, I am blind and I need this in today's society. My dog's feet do not get stuck in the sidewalk cracks and slow me down. In fact, I can jog with her and not tire my wrist. I have to be a bit mindful of her extremeties in social situations; but this doesn't bother me. I've had as many canes break because people tripped on them as I've had my dog cry over her toes being stepped on.

My properly groomed dog may smell like a dog, and some people don't like dog smell. However, I don't like some people's perspiration, and I am not rude enough to comment on it or ask them to move. I don't ask people to leave their poorly-behaved children at home when we visit. I would never think of such a thing! The children are part of the family, and when I become someone's friend I am the family friend! I child-proof my house as well as I can, and if something is damaged it gets replaced if it's that important to me. If I visit someone's home, my dog is under control at all times and should not be chasing the person's cats, intimidating their small powder puff dog, etc.

Loretta and I are officially done with training. I had planned to go up to the child care center this morning; but I got tremendous blisters on my feet that caused agonizing pain when I took her downstairs last night. I cancelled the trip this morning. Mom popped one of the blisters, and I am treating it to make sure it doesn't become infected.

It is hard to believe that I am finished with training and beginning this new chapter in my life. Loretta's primary areas of concern are squirrel distractions, what we are calling "passive distraction," and clearance errors during patterning exercises. I suspect that in the patterning exercises she is so focused on the clicker and treats that she is not working the clearance spaces well. I'm going to try patterning without the clicker in the future and only use the clicker if she is having a truly difficult time. Yesterday we reviewed the patterning work that we did on Tuesday night, and she aced it. I'm quite impressed!

She does show some signs that she may be able to alert to some of my medical needs. I will be watching this over time and perhaps training some response behaviors. This is a new idea for me since I didn't officially train the cats. They trained their own response behaviors, and I just reinforced them by reacting consistently. If anything begins to develop in this regard with Loretta, I will post some details.


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