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The Guide Dog Journey

For your reading convenients below you will find all the Guide Dog Journey published in 2019

January 2019

Welcome to the Guide Dog Journey; a place for all things dog guide related.

First, I would like to acknowledge that although I do have significant experience and knowledge about guide dogs, I am not a veterinarian nor am I a guide dog trainer or instructor. If you are experiencing training or medical difficulties with your canine friend, please contact the appropriate professional.

Although the technical, non-specific training facility name for these dogs is dog guide, I use the term “guide dog” in my writings as it is very commonly used throughout both the blindness community and general public. Although I will not show favor to any specific training program here, I will spotlight and interview each school here about their programs if there is reader interest.

In these articles, I hope to inspire you and share my knowledge, wisdom and opinions about guide related things. Whether we are matched with a service animal or have one in our lives somehow, we love the wagging tail, puppy kisses and companionship that these amazing creatures provide. So, if you are a guide dog handler, a friend or family member of a handler or just simply interested in the work of our canine helpers, I think you will find these articles both interesting and helpful.

My experience comes from many situations. First as a cane user and working through the decision to obtain a dog, first dog experience, retiring a dog for health issues, successor dogs, being dogless for a time and watching a retired dog grow old. In fact, this column has been named after my recently retired, outstanding guide named Journey. It is my hope that you will learn and grow from my experiences.

Topics I hope to cover in my articles include: deciding if a dog is right for you, choosing a training school, bonding with a dog, travel, obedience, playing with your dog, and interactions with family, friends and the public as they relate to guides.

I will begin with the topic of deciding whether or not a guide is for you.
This can be a daunting decision. There are several things to consider such as your current lifestyle, your living environment, how much time and energy you have to dedicate to a dog and whether or not you have the finances and commitment to be able to provide for such an important animal.
Your lifestyle might need to be such that it gives the dog the work it needs to stay sharp and do what the dog is trained for. Your living environment needs to be dog appropriate in ways such as a decent relief area, a place for the dog to play and somewhere that is safe for a dog.
Dogs require care and attention. Some people consider a cane to be more of an attractive option because they may not want to put forth the time and effort required for a dog. They also like not having to relieve a dog or the trouble of having to find someone to care for a dog when they go to areas that are not well suited for a dog.
Although there are guide dog schools and other organizations who can sometimes assist with the cost of having a guide, financial considerations are also important when deciding whether or not a dog is right for you.
Some consider the work and commitment required to use a guide to be a very worthwhile sacrifice. The assistance, love and companionship a dog provides is worth it all to many guide dog handlers.
Whether or not to utilize a guide is a very personal decision. Having a dog or using a cane is an individual choice and should be respected.

Please let me know which other topics you would like to read about and your comments and suggestions are always welcome.
Thank you for reading and joining me on the Guide Dog Journey!
Until next time, enjoy the journey!

March 2019

CANE OR CANINE: Which One To Choose

Welcome to this month’s Guide Dog Journey. With spring right around the corner, it is time to start thinking about getting back outdoors and traveling. Often times, the decision about which mobility to utilize can be a tough one. There are definite advantages and disadvantages between traveling with a cane and traveling with a guide dog and in this article, I will look at both sides.

First, it should be noted that most blindness experts would agree that having good orientation and mobility skills is essential to any kind of travel as a blind or visually impaired person. The basics of orientation and mobility are; knowing where you are, where you’re going and how to safely get there. It involves being aware of your environment and any potential obstacles or hazards, being cognizant of landmarks and the route you’re needing to travel. Whether you use a cane or a dog, these things are very relevant and important.

Using a cane does have some definite pros. A cane gives immediate, tactile feedback about your environment. A cane is very easy to transport and care for. A cane is also a very visible cue to the general public that you are blind. The cane does not have sensitivities to very hot or very cold climates. The cane is an easily accessed and inexpensive means of mobility that does not depend on you.

A dog also has several positive benefits. Often times, traveling with a dog is a faster means of travel and brings more of a sense of freedom to a blind person, unlike they’ve never experienced. A dog avoids obstacles and easily glides around things, often without a blind person’s knowledge. Dog’s often use what is called “intelligent disobedience” which means they may not proceed under unsafe conditions. A dog is a very welcome tool in very crowded and cluttered situations including very snowy conditions. Using a dog in noisy conditions is much easier than using a cane because you are not needing as much audible information from your environment when using a dog. And, as I touched on in my last article, a guide dog provides an excellent means of companionship and a strong bond. A dog is often times a welcome topic of conversation and a good social outlet.

Many blind or visually impaired people use both a cane and a dog; each in different situations. When traveling to concerts, sporting events, etc.; it is not always appropriate or safe to travel with a dog, so traveling with a cane is ideal. So although there are advantage to both means of travel, one may suit your particular lifestyle more than another. It is always best to do what’s best for you.

So whatever your mobility aid of choice, until next time, stay safe, travel strong and enjoy the journey!
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