5 Reasons Why Guide Dogs Are a Terrible Idea!

If you’re blind, you obviously read Braille. Your hearing must naturally be superior to your sighted peers, and of course you have a guide dog! Right?

Well, that last may not be as pervasive as the first and second. Someone recently told me the number of guide dog users has actually declined in my millennial generation. I have no evidence proving this one way or the other, but for the general public, to see a blind person with a guide dog feels as natural as butter and toast.

Thing is, I’m not so sure guide dogs are right for everyone. Or, maybe I’m just projecting my own uncertainties onto the rest of the community?

Last November I took the first step in the application process to return for a second Seeing Eye dog. It’s been more than three years since I lost Gator, and even though I’ve gotten around just fine with a white cane, I am approaching what feels like the final years with sight, however minimal that sight might be. I admit it’s unnerving if I sit still long enough to contemplate total blindness. NFB philosophy be damned, and the thought of an extra set of eyes to help me navigate the world does bring a measure of comfort. But, is it enough to go get another dog?

In no particular order, here are reasons why a guide dog would be a terrible idea:

1. It’s expensive!

Taking possession of a guide dog is not in of itself expensive. To my knowledge, the Seeing Eye is the only school that charges for ownership, and at $150 for first time students, $50 for returns, the amount is negligible.

It’s everything that comes after graduation that is expensive. You should take good care of your pets regardless of their purpose, but service animals demand that extra stretch in commitment to ensure their long-term health. That means better than average dog food, consistent vet visits, and springing for medical treatments that some would deem optional under less special circumstances.

2. It’s inconvenient!

At the Seeing Eye you get up early to begin the daily training. Fortunately these days I’m getting up at 3:30, giving me an unfair advantage over my future comrades, but beating dawn at school is different from beating dawn at home, on a Saturday, in the middle of winter, a snowy winter, a snowy winter when you wake up feeling like a truck ran you over.

After a long day of flying, your first priority is not locating a cab, finding your room, or feeding yourself. At least in my experience, the top concerns were twofold: 1) finding a place for Gator to relieve himself; and 2) finding a trash can to dispose of it. You’d be surprised at how much of a nuisance it can be to find a friggin’ trash can when you need one!

This, of course, assumes the stubborn canine chooses to relieve himself on command. Remember that snowy winter where you felt like crap? Pun totally intended? Well, if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, but you know your dog well enough to know they need to go out, you will stand there, maybe pace back and forth until he finds the perfect spot. And you are sorely tempted to shake the animal, because both you and he know the whole damn world is basically its urinal, so just go for the love of all things holy!

And speaking of traveling, tall people bid thee farewell to leg room. Yes, some dogs are smaller and therefore easier to stow away, but small or large, it’s less space for your feet or the carry-on you used to be able to place beneath the seat in front of you.

3. It’s time-consuming!

On any given day you can decide to go outside, or not. You can decide you’re going to take a walk, or not. Your dog, however, requires both, and even now, living on a large fenced-in lot, I understand despite my ability to open the back door and cut the dogs loose, proper exercise is necessary to keeping a dog engaged and out of trouble.

4. It’s unwelcomed attention!

The United States has made decent strides in implementing equality laws. Sadly, we’re still a tad bit behind in changing minds. Did you read about the ACB’s lawsuit in DC? So, yes, that means the cab driver may or may not pick you up. You may or may not be welcomed into a restaurant, and while you may file complaints, is that really the way to make a name for yourself as a person with a disability in the 21st century?

Let’s not even talk about attention to appearance. No matter how hard you work at it, you will have dog hair on your clothing. That’s just part of the bargain, and while you might get a pass for casual dress, wearing dog hair on a suit deals a hefty blow to your attempts to be taken seriously.

And, we can’t talk about attention without acknowledging the obvious. From here on out, it’s all about the dog, ’bout the dog, ’bout the dog, no kidding! When I had Gator I often wondered if my friends and acquaintances even remembered my name! Even now, several years after reconnecting with old acquaintances, the leading question is not about my health, my job, my general well-being, but rather: Where is that handsome shepherd of yours?

5. It can be dirty work!

When I was training with Gator, everyone made such a big deal about bonding with your dog this and bonding with your dog that. Say what you will, but there is no greater bonding experience than cleaning after your animal, be they pet or guide.

The first morning we were expected to begin cleaning up after our dogs, one of my new friends nearly gagged. I laughed. What a girl! Then one morning Gator had diarrhea. I stopped laughing…

The dog will inevitably vomit. If you’re good, you may even avoid stepping in it. One day my idiot dog went and got his paw stuck in some discarded fencing. It’s a good thing blood doesn’t phase me.

Damn! Any Words of Encouragement?

If you were contemplating a dog, came across this post and felt discouraged, you should not get a dog. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s constant care and attention and a commitment to keep up the dog’s level of training. No one will fault you for being mature enough to walk away.

If, however, you plowed through it and decided none of these deterrents really deterred you, by all means push forward.

I have never heard of anyone who returned their dog on account of not being able to afford it. That’s not to say you should not go into the commitment with your eyes wide open and take steps to prioritize their care. If the dog needs to be prematurely retired, and you choose to keep your dog, assuming your school lets you keep the dog, the small financial breaks you get at the vet cease to exist. Your school can usually provide a good safety net for active guide dogs, but medical emergencies can sometimes outpace school assistance.

Owning a guide dog can be inconvenient, but hell, being blind can be inconvenient. You may as well have a good excuse to bring your puppy to work. As for the airplane comfort? Well, there’s no lying about that one. If you’re tall, you’re screwed.

Yes, handling a guide dog can take up precious time you could have once spent doing something else. I don’t know. I mean, it seems like a fair trade considering the service they perform on your behalf, and the bonding thing really does smooth over some of those minor gripes.

Unwanted attention? Well, here again I point back to the blindness thing. You’re always going to attract it in some form or fashion. Society has not improved to such a degree that the role of service animals is fully embraced in all public spaces and across varying cultures. It’s really going to come down to whether or not you love dogs by nature and whether or not you feel the dog is worth it. Learn to make a lint brush part of your essential tools. People will generally understand you have a dog; therefore, the dog hair is a nuisance but at least a condonable shortcoming on appearance.

That leaves us with the least fun aspect of owning a guide dog, and well, there’s no covering up that one. It would be crappy of you to leave your dog’s mess behind. Neighbors will raise a stink. Strangers will give you dirty looks. Your fellow blind comrades will turn up their nose. Haha. The puns sounded so much funnier in my head than they do coming through your screen reader, I’m sure.

In all seriousness, there are definite pros and cons to committing to a guide dog. Do not get a dog because your family thinks it’s a good idea, you think it would be cool to have a fully trained pet, or need to rely on a dog to gain your independence. Whatever the guide dog school marketing might argue, the dog does not grant you independence; it will enhance it. Do get a dog if you can treat the dog as a living, breathing companion you can collaborate with to navigate the world.

So, why do I care? Because I’m toying with the idea of returning for my second dog. Someone said writing things out helps with the brainstorming, so why not turn my scribbles into a post you can mutually benefit from? And, speaking of blogging, I always thought it was a little lame when people kept a journal of their guide dog training experience. Kind of fru fru if you ask me, so if I go back to school, I’m totally blogging the experience like the lame-ass blind person that I am! And you will read it, because you are every bit as curious as I am to know, if I go, whether or not my dog will come with a redonkulous name like Bon Bon, Daisy, or Pebbles… Actually, come to think of it, Pebbles would be kind of cool.

Comments? Questions? I’ll answer what I can and leave it to the experts to field what I cannot. And if you think it would be worth featuring a SeroTalk Extra maybe not even so much on guide dogs, but on understanding animal behavior, let me know this as well.

About Joe Orozco

Joe Orozco is the Communications Director for Serotek Corp. He is also Managing Director for AlphaComm Strategies. When he isn't writing web pages, proposals, and online marketing materials for social and commercial entrepreneurs, he enjoys reading and writing about technology, financial management, and strategic planning. Follow Joe on Twitter @ScribblingJoe
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31 Responses to 5 Reasons Why Guide Dogs Are a Terrible Idea!

  1. Steven Whiteker says:

    I thought that the piece on guide dogs was great.

  2. Joey Weston says:

    The other thing at least my main reason for not getting a dog is emotional attachment.
    They’re your 24 hour a day eyes companion and if they get sick or die then it’s almost as bad or as bad as loosing a human member of the family.
    I know people who have guide dogs and wonder how they have or will deal with that?

  3. Joshua Loya says:

    Joe,

    You make a lot of really good points. There are a lot of people, in my opinion, who get dogs who shouldn’t have them. They can barely take care of themselves, and if this is the case, they should not have a dog for which they also have to care. That said, with all of the headaches that come with having a dog, I think there are some additions I can offer from my eleven years of experience working with guide dogs as a handler, not to mention that my mother is also blind, and she had guide dogs since before I was born.

    1. I enjoy walking now.

    I’m a really active guy. I’m a fantastic cane traveler. That said, I almost never go for pleasure walks with my cane. I can walk much faster and much more effortlessly with a dog. Assuming I’ve taken the time for my dog to be fully relieved, I can get to my destination much faster and with less stress than I could with a cane. I can focus on enjoying the walk, rather than worrying about engaging with each obstacle that I encounter. With a dog, I walk right by most of them.

    2. Grooming and hair.

    The dog hair problem can be helped a lot by regular brushing, the use of specialty brushes for removing extra fur, and extra attention to your dog’s food and nutritional supplementation. A good quality food and fish oil supplementation wont’ only help your dog’s joint health and the appearance of his or her coat, it will also cut down on shedding.

    The other thing to consider with extra fur is that if you have a dark colored dog, wear dark clothing. If you have a light colored dog, you may want to consider lighter colors. For me personally, I tend to wear rather dark clothing. I have been fortunate enough to have black dogs for my 3 guides.

    3. Dog’s can be a conversation starter.

    While it is true that I have gotten more attention when travelling with my dog, and some of it unwanted, it can be a bonus if I am looking to meet new people or if I am trying to find someone who can answer my question. Often times if somebody stops to say, “What a beautiful dog.”, I will eventually have an opening to ask my question for directions to the customer service counter or a store employee. It also helps lodge the interaction in people’s minds. They might remember the dog more than us at first. That said, if we are engaging enough, and the person isn’t completely clueless, it might help us build longer lasting and more valuable rapport with people who can help enrich our lives or who might be the contact we need for our next employment opportunity.

    4. Companionship.

    I do not think that someone should get a dog just for this reason. That said, I can definitely attest to for myself, and a close personal friend, that guide dogs can be a source of strength through difficult times. I went through a very difficult time between June of 2008 and December of 2009. I had a friend who experienced some rough trauma during the early part of 2011. Both of us can thank our dogs for the extra strength we needed to keep going. Having to take care of another living thing helped us to want to take care of ourselves. If this is the only reason you want a dog, get a pet or aplant. If it may tip the balance, then it is worth considering.

    It’s a long comment I know, but I had to respond to balance out some of the cons you posted. I’ll leave it for now. Regardless, great article, and one everyone who is considering a dog should read.

  4. Joe Orozco says:

    Joshua: Fantastic points. Actually, and I don’t know if this is a good enough reason to have ultimately decided to go back for a dog, but walking the dog is a huge motivator. Exercising on machines is great, but taking walks is better. Have you ever found a way to go jogging with yours? It’d have to be off harness, I realize, but I’d be curious if anyone’s ever made it work. Thanks for the reminders about proper supplements for shed control. I got Gator when I was in college and admit I never went out of my way to study up on ways to deal with such things.

    Joey: The emotional factor is a big deal. I worked my shepherd for seven years. I had to put him down rather abruptly. My last memory is of him lying on my lap as he was put to sleep, and I’ll be the first to confess that as serious and reserved as I am, I have never cried harder. Yet, as with most difficult things, time is a great healer. I would not let that be the reason not to get a dog.

    Steven: Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  5. Lulu Hartgen says:

    Joe, thank you for writing this and thank you for posting it. For years and years I thought I was possibly the only person in the world to think these things. I had a guide dog in 1987. The experience was far from the amazing partnership everyone else seemed to be having but an endless round of tasks to do, bills to be paid, and while I loved my dog to bits I couldn’t help thinking that the dog had a keen brain, knew exactly where my weaknesses were and could manipulate me. It didn’t help that I was very young and immature. For five years I struggled on and then I was hoping to start a family and the combination of dog plus baby was just too much of a mountain and I took the decision to return the dog. My decision was received with general horror from both the instructors at the GD school and by my family and friends. I know people who have had many dogs in the course of their lives, who do the crappy jobs willingly, but there must be some who hate the dog hair on the black skirt, the cleaning up, the way a person won’t speak to you but directly to your dog, the endless wondering if a cab/restaurant/wherever is actually going to let you in without making a fuss. It’s worth saying, having a dog isn’t right for everyone and again, thank you for saying it.

  6. Brad DunseBrad Dunse says:

    As someone who has contemplated a guide dog for years now, you’ve hit on many of the points why I’ve not gotten one.

    I have this thing running through my head.

    Canes are so handy. When at work I collapse my telescoping carbon-fiber pal and shove him in my back pocket. I’ve had people mistake it for a personal weapon, which is good in that particular work setting.

    But then again, a cane can’t take a chunk out of a potential attacker’s leg.

    But then again a guide dog probably wouldn’t either.

    And here’s one for the dog, they don’t get stuck between cross-foot traffic and snap in half, tripping the most alert pedestrian.

    I’ve always had this thing, if I got a dog my O&M skills would sort of falter from relying on the dog for such things as, “Pebbles, find the counter… Pebbles, find an empty seat… Pebbles, find the Coke machine.”

    Don’t laugh, a friend trained her dog to find the Coke machine and it got her out of a real jam.

    Maybe I’m using my cane wrong though. I once had a gentleman in a wheel chair ask me if my cane told me where to go. Huh, what?

    I began to think maybe my cane was like the Norwegian hand-saw that didn’t work, so Sven brought it in to the shop, the shop owner pulled the chord and much to Sven’s surprise it roared to life.

    This gentleman gave me visions of my cane idling solo on a 45-degree angle, just hovering there, and when I grab it? Wala, it takes off and I just hang on for dear life as it whisks me to a window booth at the local McD’s or something.

    Let’s see. No vet bills with canes, but canes cost on average $35 a piece. And I’ve got about five of them needing vet care to bring them back to life. I guess still cheaper than dog food as my cane has a light appetite.

    But, I can’t pet my cane and say, “Good girl, how’s my Pebbles today? I love my good girl. Wanna play catch off harness?”

    Well, I could, but I think I’d get stranger looks than I get now wielding a cane down the sidewalk.

    As you mentioned, canes don’t poop either. That has de-turd, pun intended, me from getting one.

    I’m not a girlyman, that doesn’t gross me out. My awesome Springer Spaniel, gone these 5-years now, had major issues towards her sad end with controlling things. I can handle the task, but the timing and all? Yeah.

    “Come on Pebbles, crap already, daddy’s late for an appointment.”

    Seriously, I think guide dogs are awesome. I would love to have one at times, and then there are times I’m so glad I don’t. Is there a perfect method? Probably not. Should one be dogmatic about one or the other? Sorry about that pun, it just fell out.

    Forgive the quality, I’d just written it like a couple hours before, but here’s a tune on mobility methods. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/17921544/whichisright.mp3

  7. Joe Orozco says:

    Brad,

    You never fail to crack me up. Thank you for much needed humor.

    To your point about faltering O&M skills, I might be opening up a totally separate can of worms here when I admit not to taking my dog everywhere I went. So many people attribute anthropomorphic qualities to their pooch. They think of them as their children, and just like children, there are places children don’t need to be present. So, while Gator was well-versed in white water rafting, climbing ladders and the like, there were scenarios where I did not think Gator needed to accompany me, and as much as I could claim my reasons were always for logistics (loud noise, rowdy people, etc.,) the truth of the matter is that there were evenings when I just didn’t feel like bringing along my companion.

    There were networking events, for example, where mingling with people in a reception environment would have proven more of a nuisance than a benefit, because in my own experience, guide dogs are supreme for active movement but a bit cumbersome for flexibility in certain social settings. Does that mean I never took him to receptions? Absolutely not, but if I knew I was there to make a pitch to funding prospects, I needed my attention to be focused on the prospect and not divided between them and my dog whose nose may or may not be sniffing under a lady’s skirt. We know these dogs are highly trained, but at heart, they’re still dogs! :)

    In my case, there were some prolonged stretches of consistent dog usage that did impact my cane skills. I’ve heard it argued that cane skills never really go away. Those skills become as innate as speaking multiple languages, and on the whole, I think this is accurate. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean you don’t go through a period of re-familiarizing yourself with tactile interaction with your environment versus auditory. Therefore, I occasionally struck out with only my cane, because Gator’s life was unfortunately marked with pancreatic insufficiency that necessitated him staying home sometimes, and I could not afford to feel mentally stranded if my dog did not feel well enough to go to work on any given morning.

    Lulu:

    You said perfectly in a few sentences what took me damn near 5 pages to spit out. Thank you! Dogs really aren’t for everyone, and it’s terrible when people look down their nose at anyone for whatever choice of mobility they opt for.

    Your comment made me think of something else. Leash corrections are a part of the experience. We’d love for our dogs to be perfect creatures with no desire to get into mischief, and no one will know this better than the handler. But, to correct a dog in public is met with such a scandalous reaction! It’s like, okay, you love to see the image of the happy blind man walking along with his cute dog, but you don’t care to see the work that goes into maintaining that dog’s performance. Sheesh.

  8. blindbeader says:

    As a guide dog handler myself, I actually (maybe even ironically?) completely, 100%, agree with this post. I fully think that guide dog schools should make 100% sure that their applicants and trainees know what they are getting in for – the good, the bad and the ugly. My 18 months of working with my guide have alternately been the most frustrating and the most rewarding of my life. I have had to adjust expectations, put aside my perfectionist tendencies, and work with my dog on keeping her mouth off those yummy morsels people drop on the ground; but I have had the confidence to travel 10 blocks on a Friday night alone in New York City 48 hours after arriving at the airport (I MIGHT have done so with my cane, but not nearly so confidently or smoothly).

    My first 6 months in particular with my guide were an incredible challenge. I almost wanted to throw in the towel and send her back. I am glad I didn’t, because she is a terrific and intuitive guide, but getting there was BRUTAL!

    Guide dog schools need to address this with their students; you WILL have bad days, days where you don’t want to take your guide for good reasons. Screw the Hallmark images of perfect little happy guide dogs; mine has severe seasonal allergies that make her incredibly edgy and reactive. I had to take her to the vet to figure out why she was barking in harness, because I just KNEW it was not a behavioral issue alone. It is a responsibility, but one that I am willing to take on for a little black Lab who wants nothing more than to make me happy.

  9. Lulu Hartgen says:

    Brad! What a great comment! I loved the bit about the cane roaring to life and taking off but it made me think, that might be the answer! A robot guide dog! Then we could have happy blind person walking down the street with cute dog that navigates on GPS, possibly controlled via an app on your phone or even on that watch thing supposing it’s really accessible and anyone can afford to buy one., oops, no digressing allowed here! Anyway, no dog hair, no bills, no clean up, perfect! Someone invent one!

    But wait wait, what happens when Pebbles breaks down and comes to a halt right in the middle of the road! Um … repair bills already, oil on the suit instead of hair, and what happens if you turn pebbles on one morning and it says: “I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.”

    Hmm. Time to go back to the drawing board I guess!

  10. Steven says:

    It is all about the dog. I retired my last guide over three years ago and I still get questions from people about where my dog is. I had no problem picking up after my dog outside, the problem was people with pet dogs not picking up after theirs. I’d step into the grass, hand in bag, get what my dog dropped, and end up with poop on the bottom and sides of my shoes. That isn’t fun when your ride to work or shopping is scheduled to be there ten minutes later.
    I currently don’t have a guide dog and don’t need one right now. My lifestyle has changed and I’m not one to go get a dog just because its the “cool” thing to do. I get irritated at those who get a guide dog just for the status symbol and never really work with the dog.
    I know of a lady who ran a non-profit group helping newly blind people with information and resources. She got a guide and worked him for about a month and then her guide dog was the mascot for the non-profit. When the dog had to be put down, she forced her husband to go get a guide. The only time that dog was worked is when an instructor came by for a follow-up visit. She admitted that she just wanted to have another dog around the house and for the non-profit.
    I get irritated at those who go through the training, and actually use their guide dog for the few places they go, but when it gets too cold, or they want to sleep in, or they just don’t feel like it, think someone else should take their dog out for them. I understand being sick or not feeling well but these people who just don’t think they should have to do that on their own are the ones I’m talking about.
    The two dogs I’ve had were both wonderful guides, and if that is the option one decides to take, I don’t have anything against their decision.
    Lastly, the one really annoying thing was the school I got both of my dogs from often changed their rules for how they do things and the proper method of submitting vet reports, assistance with large vet bills because of an unusual problem, and they don’t share those changes with the grads. You only find out afterward that you didn’t do it right and we aren’t going to pay that $500 for allergy testing because you didn’t follow our new process for submission. Their response would be, “Oh, we are doing that online now” but not tell anyone they have been communicating via email with. I got that with the form for annual vet visits. They stopped sending the form in the mail, so I didn’t get it filled out. Four years went by and suddenly they call and say I haven’t been sending vet reports. They said, we have those in our web site somewhere, oh and you’ll need a username and password to access it. That is something else they didn’t communicate to me.

  11. Laine Amoureux says:

    Joe, I’m bettig you’re next dog will be Bam Bam… or pinky.
    OK, so in all seriousness, to my points…
    I was paired with my first Seeing Eye dog in ’09. I decided to see what all the hype was all about. I loved dogs and was just curious. Not the best reason in the world, but it is what it is. 3 years to the day I left with my first I returned for my second. I love her to pieces, but I wish I hadn’t. This second partnership has been a challenge, both at work and out of harness, for a variety of reasons. Word to the wise, never, I mean never ever, have two female German Shepherds in the house at the same time!
    Inspight of all the trials I have had with my second guide, and after retiring my first early, because of medical issues, I still stick with it. Sometimes I wonder why, and I always come back to the fact that I made a commitment, and I’m going to hold up my end of the bargain. Call it a character flaw if you want… I have been rewarded for it though. I have a sweet loving companion, an extra person to make little judgements out in the world, have fewer awkward encounters with parking meters and mirrors in the store, and have stumbled upon opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Josh makes some great points about the attention, and how that attention can have rewards. I’ve found that my interactions with others are generally more positive as a result of having an adorable friend… Her presence seems to make me more approachable, less threatening or scary, and engages people in conversation who might avoid someone with a cane out of fear/anxiety/misconceptions. She will however, be my last guide, at least for a while… For me it all depends on the lifestyle and environment I’m in at the time I make the decision…
    One of the best aspects of my second dog is that she can, and does, guide on the run. I jog on a bike path with her, where I don’t have to worry about traffic crossings, but she loves running. I’ve purchased a nylon harness at our local pet store. It’s one that many pet owners pick up to get a better handle on a dog that pulls on a walk, or a jumping harness. It has worked really well for us. I also recently met a harness maker in Boise ID. He got started by making custom harnesses for people with a variety of physical impairments, who utilized service for supportdogs. I’m going to try to work with him on a custom running harness for guides. but, shhhh i’m sure the experts wouldn’t want to hear it.
    For those concerned about cost, I would encourage you to thoroughly investigate schools. I know that there are some schools that will cover the cost of food and medical for you, if the need is there. Someone recently introduced me to the concept of toileting harnesses, but I’ve not been super interested in looking for one for our needs. They might be helpful for others who are considering some of the pick-up difficulties.. As for the shedding, and shepherds are the worst, I’m trying a coconut oil regiment with them to see if it will help… With the shepherd the dark or light colored clothing trick doesn’t work so well… I’ve heard from our vet, a local groomer and the owner of a reputable store in our area that rubbing coconut oil in their coat, nce a month, when grooming and putting a half teaspoon in their food is supposed to help. I sure hope it does :)

  12. jan brown says:

    I have had eleven dogs over a period of 46 years.
    Yes, they require work Sometimes they are inconvenient, but then, sometimes I can be inconvenient myself.
    I used to have yellow labs and dressed in light colored clothes but kept a lint brush or roller handy.
    I enjoy pleasure and destinational walks with my dog.
    I used to have a two hour commute which my retired girl found a bit tough.
    Now that I am retired, I only go where I want but old habits die hard and we go somewhere every day. Ten thousand steps you know.
    I went to Guide Dogs for the Blind for 42 years and attended Guide Dogs of America for my last dog.
    You own your dog but they own the harness.
    The dogs don’t care.
    I like dogs and find my current guide engaging, a hard worker and a great being.
    Of course Guides are not for everybody. If you don’t like dogs, don’t want the admitted expense and time they take, they are not for you.
    My cane skills did deteriorate over years but I was able to get around between dogs.
    Good luck whatever you finally decide to do.

  13. Abbie Taylor says:

    The reasons you outline are the exact reasons I don’t have a guide dog, and I don’t think I need one since I have some vision and do pretty well with the cane. However, I know people who find their dogs are worth all the hassle. One of them is blogging about her experiences at http://alice13wordwalk.wordpress.com/ .

    Being a writer, I agree that putting your thoughts on paper, or in this case on a computer screen, does help, and I hope the writing of this post has helped you make your decision about getting a second guide dog.

  14. Linda says:

    I absolutely loved this, but must remind you in all fairness of one comment worse than why don’t you have a dog. How many times has anyone here been asked why they’re still blind, because they can get a coronary, and yes I mean coronary, as opposed to corneal transplant? Then when you tell them there’s nothing wron with your whatever, the reply is to ask you why you’re blind, and you have to go over the list of causes of blindness, at leas the ones you know about.
    But back to, to have or not to have, The biggest problem with dog guides, from what I hear is the lack of discipline on the part of their owners, and maybe even going as far back as puppy raisers. I’ve heard of dog guides swiping food from restaurant tables, and we all know about ladies skirts.
    So whatever floats your boat, turns your crank, etc. Happy dog owning, or not?

  15. Pingback: ALL Blind People should Have a Guide Dog | Life Unscripted

  16. Jane Lund says:

    The blog and comments have been fabulous. I have had two guide dogs; both have passed away. People forget how their families react to the dog. Initially, my immediate family did not want the dog in their cars. Things changed once I came home with the “cute” creature. I still have friends who I ride to church with who have asked me not to bring a dog in their vehicles because of leather seats. We’re still friends but . . . .

    Another consideration is contact with senior citizens. They are afraid a dog will trip them and they will fall. The current co-operative in which I live, has some very restrictive guidelines for handling dogs within the building. Specifically, dogs can only enter and leave by certain entrances and may not enter by the front door because dogs may not have contact with the lobby in case of having an accident. Guide dogs are supposedly exempt from the rule, but I am confident the dog haters would come out fighting if I came in the front door with a real, breathing, guide dog.

    Some days I would really like a dog because I miss the long walks without concentrating so hard on what is going on around me. I miss the snuggle time in the evenings. It’s so much easier to go to the mall with a dog because they learn where you shop and they know exactly how to get there and they are so excited to see their friends at the store. I do not miss the 10 PM outings when it is 10 below zero, blowing, and snowing.

  17. Dani says:

    Great article, these were things I was thinking of before getting a guide dog. But once I went over to Germany to go to school for music, the cons of the white cane as well as the load of bike riders were ridiculous. All of that cobblestone got me so frustrated. So traveling was difficult. Then after all those near collisions with a bike, eventually want happened and I broke my can. Luckily I had a spare in my bag and the woman who helped me upside the man on his bike did not have his headlight which is required by law with the bikes at night, but do they ever respect that? Of course not there are walking paths and bikepaths and they ride it wherever they want to cut off every car and cut off every pedestrian. Anyway committing to a guide dog was possible and affordable. Now, as far as traveling, since I had her since 2011, it’s been a lot easier.as someone else already pointed out, it is nice to feel motivated when it comes to walking with my dog, where as before when I just had the cane, I did not want to deal with the cobblestone every two seconds so I would just get a ride with somebody to go somewhere. I’m sure you all know that getting jabbed in the gut while taking a 20 minute walk even to a grocery store is by no means any fun.

  18. Joe Orozco says:

    Dani: For sure there are times when even the convenience of the white cane is up for debate. I think the design and general structure of the cane tip have evolved, but sometimes you hit funky cobbled streets where a dog is ironically the better choice. I visited Portland, Maine late last year and found myself wishing for something a little more fluid than my cane.

    Jane: Every now and then I catch a ride into work with a guy who works in my building. If I come home with a guide dog though, I’m thinking that ride will be a thing of the past. He and I will still be chummy, but as you say…

    Linda: Haha. My idiot dog swiped someone’s fries once while walking through a restaurant. I corrected the behavior there and then, but the absolute nerve of darting his head in, grabbing, and making as if to continue waltzing by was appalling. Yet, as I said, despite all the training and correction, the dogs will be dogs, and there is almost a threshold where you have to decide if the battle is worth it in specific situations.

    Abbie: Yes, writing it out and reading everyone’s feelings on the subject has helped. I never set out to cave to peer pressure one way or the other, but competing opinions is useful to make decisions. It’s make it a little less personal and a little more honest.

    Jan: Ten thousand steps indeed! Part of what made me hesitate was whether or not I’d be giving the dog enough of a challenge. My life now is different from my life back in college when I was constantly traveling and moving about, but I suppose the schools do their job to find a match that fits best with our schedules.

    Laine: If I come back and my dog’s name is Dallas, it’ll be because I changed it from whatever crazy name it originally came with. LOL Bam Bam? Really? But great point regarding breeds. I didn’t want to stray down that path in my article, but breed can occasionally play another unique factor in the decision process.

    Steven: Yeah, one should never get a guide dog for the status symbol. Too much work goes into upholding that symbol for it to be worth it.

    BlindBeader: Your comment cracked me up. I think it was a hard pill to swallow to agree with the post but appreciate your understanding the points I was attempting to make.

  19. Paul says:

    If I wasn’t against the guide dog concept before, I am now. The fact these points even need to be highlighted serves as proof that guide dogs are often seen as little more than furry mobility aids.

    The idea that someone can just decide after 5 years of service their guide is an obstacle to having the life they want frankly sickens me. It’d be tolerable if the guide was proving to be troublesome in the first year or 2 for someone to go back for a different guide or decide a guide dog isn’t right for them (though I still think it’s crap), but to persist for 5 years and only then decide to return the dog because they’re too much trouble when the person wants to breed? There are no words to describe the level of disgust I feel.

    My dog (a pet) is a little trickster, and I’m sure she exploits my weaknesses for her amusement, but you know what? I would never give her up just because she was an obstacle to having the life I want. I would starve on the streets before I ever considered giving up my dog. I raised her from 8 weeks, and paid many pretty pennies to get her, and I respect her more than apparently some guide dog users respect their guides.

    The take away from my rant is that if you wouldn’t be willing to own a dog for the long term, don’t even consider for a nanosecond getting a guide dog. Guide dogs shouldn’t be just tools you use and throw away when they’re no longer useful to you. They should be treated with respect for the service they offer, and be allowed to live out the rest of their life with someone they’ve already spent a lot of their life with. A blind person’s mere convenience is not worth more than the respect owed to a former guide.

  20. Shanna Stichler says:

    Love this post! It definitely covers the less pleasant aspects of guide dog ownership, which get kind of glossed over in a lot of the guide dog literature. I’ll always work a dog, and actually trained my current guide myself, but I by no means believe my dogs are magical beings that solve all my problems and know how to get me places all by themselves. I think a lot of people don’t fully understand what working a service dog is really like, and they are unpleasantly surprised by all the work involved. I’m definitely pointing prospective handlers I encounter to this post, so they can read it along with the overly fluffy/sentimental posts found on the rest of the internet. :)

    Oh, and best of luck to you, regardless of whether or not you choose to get a successor guide!

  21. Shanna Stichler says:

    Oh yeah..I forgot to mention that for me, the biggest drawback to working a dog isn’t clean-up, Shepherd hair everywhere, etc. It’s dealing with the public. I will say that I’ve had some great encounters with people, but I’m not someone who gets a dog to help people feel more comfortable talking to me or whatever. I get dogs because I find that traveling with one is more efficient. Dealing with all the questions, requests to pet, and all the rest gets really old after a while. Oh, and as a bonus since I work a larger GSD, I get the occasional shrieks of terror. I have seen people actually run screaming from my dog upon encountering us calmly shopping for shoes, in the grocery store, and riding an elevator (my personal favorite!) I mostly just want to run errands or whatever in peace, and that doesn’t happen very often.

  22. Elizabeth Campbell says:

    Hi Joe! Great blog post looking at the pros and cons of guide dogs. Here is my take on the whole subject. I think that in order to be successful in working with a dog, you need to be comfortable with yourself and understand that you have limits along with the dog. In other words, the dog isnt’ the magic bullet that is going to solve all of your travel problems. Also, when deciding if getting a dog for the first time or returning for a subsequent guide, you have to determine what you’re willing to put up with. Like Joe said, it’s not fun taking the dog out in the middle of a snow storm, or an ice storm here in Texas, but the flipside is having your dog suddenly back away from a driveway or from an intersection when one of those dreaded hybrid vehicles is coming toward you.. That far outweighs any inconvenience. Plus, it is just gratifying to me when I know my dog loves his work. I can tell when my dog is really happy and proud of what he accomplished. I think people need to decide what’s best for themselves in order to travel safely and independently. In my case, I prefer the dog, but I am also perfectly fine using my cane when I need to.

  23. Nystagmite says:

    Not being the CEO of anything or the director of this or that, I don’t have a corporate limmo as an alternative to pounding the streets on foot, let alone going anywhere by plane (goodness’ sake, the pretensions of some people! ditto hydrofoil and submarine). So what’s the best way of achieving that? I’m good with a cane, but the rest of the world isn’t and constantly treads on it, and I risk permanent gut injury on uneven cobbles in my city. The cane does have its uses and I use one now and then, but….. Dog advantage #1: I can walk normally and not worry about the details of every obstruction when walking with the dog.

    OK, the cane gets a cautious welcome. What other mobility aids could I use?

    Every week, I read headlines that some piece of tech is going to replace the guide dog. Stuff and nonsense. I haven’t come across any gizmo that comes near to the dog’s talents. The reason for that is that my dog is smart (dog advantage#2), and whatever name you choose for an app, it ain’t going to be as smart as the developer thinks it is. In fact, most developers don’t seem to have the first clue about the needs of the user or what a guide dog actually does. GPS and turn-by-turn apps are great things, so are smart (dur!) glasses, but to me they are possible secondary aids to my guide dog partnership, not a substitute. My dog will refuse to cross the road if I’ve messed up and tried to go forward when a car is about to turn the corner from behind, and he’ll also pull me over to the pavement if I’ve been unable to find it. These are major safety measures that have probably saved my life.

    Dog advantage #3. The dog is a great ice-breaker in most social situations. Not always, no, and I don’t always want my dog being fussed when he’s supposed to be working. But I have actually made friends with people I wouldn’t have even met if it wasn’t for the dog, including some who are also guide dog handlers.

    Dog advantage #4: cardio-vascuar health point. Even if you don’t always want to stir yourself on a cold, foggy, damp morning, if you take charge of an animal, you have to meet its needs, come rain or shine, sickness or health, and I agree with others here that if you’re not prepared for this, don’t even start to think about a dog. The good news is that if you meet the dog’s requirements for exercise and stimulation, you yourself will also benefit.

    Dog advantage #5. Some of us just love dogs, and we’re likely to become good guide dog handlers. Having a doggy companion is great as far as I’m concerned. He’s beautiful, lively, comical, friendly and many other qualities. If it’s at all possible, I want him to be around even after he retires. I know some people who have guide dogs and treat them like machines or just aren’t interested. They should never have had guide dogs in the first place, in my opinion, so this is a dog disadvantage for people like that.

    Yes, the dog is hard work, but he gives back in spades. As for picking up crap, get over it; it will only take up a few minutes of your day, and you can take some pride from making a good job of clearing up. The dog hair problem is a bit more complex, but grooming and using a fleece under the dog are some things you can do to reduce the problem.

    It does make sense to think long and loud before taking on a guide dog. So it’s great that this article and the discussion are here.

  24. Well written and you bring up good points. There are several paths to independent mobility, but they all begin inside your own head and heart. I’ve had 4 guide dogs, but I don’t recommend them unless being with a dog – with all that entails – appeals to you.

  25. Paul says:

    I applaud those who have the ability and patience required to train their own guide dogs. I honestly believe that more focus should be placed on guide dog handlers raising and training their own dogs, rather than the current model of having an organization raise and train guide dogs for them. The current system makes guide dogs more like commodities than intelligent trained animals. I have no doubt in my mind that people who do most of the hard work of raising and training their own service animal would have a greater deal of respect and pride for the service their dog offers to them.

    As a matter of curiosity, I’m wondering how and what guide dogs are actually taught. I have on various occasions tried to find this out, but either I’m using the wrong search terms or guide dog organizations are secretive about their training methods (that’d certainly help for their continued existence).

  26. Raul Gallegos says:

    hello. I actually like Joe’s post regardless of whether I agree with that or not. More on that in a bit. Everyone of course is entitled to write the way they want to because after all this is a free country. However the part that I didn’t like was the title of this article. It did no it’s nothing but a negative connotation regarding guide dogs. I believe that there are more positive and constructive ways to create something if you really want to get better attention. In any case, I agree with a couple of his reasons, however I must point out a few things considering my opinion. First off, I’ve had one guy dog and that was over 15 years ago. I have not had a dog since. Lately I have been reconsidering getting another guy dog. Like a couple of commenters here said, I was one of those people who originally got my dog more out of curiosity and because a few good friends of mine had a guy dog. I was 19 at the time and really didn’t know much about life despite thinking the opposite. I found myself and many of the same situations; dog hair everywhere, needing to get up early to feed or relieve the dog, small spaces on airplanes, etc. However the bond that I had with my dog outweighed any of those inconveniences. I guess I look at this article on whether someone should get a guy dog or not, based on your own lifestyle and belief system and habits. If your lifestyle or your habits will make it a negative thing to have a guide dog, then definitely don’t get one. Like I said, it’s the title I have most issues with. Using a different analogy, I take a similar approach when getting other things. For example if I decide to buy a tablet computer versus a laptop versus a desktop. I need to decide which one is going to be the most convenient for me, which one is going to give me headaches, and which one is going to give me the best satisfaction. This is sort of the same thing. When considering getting another dog, I look at the kind of work I am doing and how I do the work. I travel a lot to visit consumers homes. I travel a lot in taxis or in Uber. I also like to dress nice and I don’t care a lot for dog hair. So with that in mind, I know that if I want to enjoy the wonderful bond between a handler and a dog, and I want to take advantage of the differences in traveling with the dog versus a cane, I will need to find a solution for those things that stand out. In my case, I will take care of the dog hair problem by getting a black dog. Black dog hair does not show up as prominently as yellow gold or brown. Regardless of a dog, I have been strongly considering getting a robotic vacuum for my home. However this is also a bonus because that would also assist and picking up the dog care that a regular vacuum my mess. I’ve had pets before and I strongly believe in feeding your pets very good food. So the issue of more expensive dog food is not an issue for my possible future guy dog because it is what I would expect to do for a guy dog or for a pet in any case. As far as dealing with the public, that is probably one of the biggest challenges that I have. In the line of work that I am in, I have to be nice. Sometimes, I am simply a tired human being who doesn’t have time for ignorant people. I realize of course that I will have to handle this appropriately in order to help educate the public. However I already know this and it is something I may be willing to take on. Although I don’t agree with people using a guy dog as an icebreaker, I have to admit that without my guy dog, I probably would not have met one of my closest friends. She just happens to be an ex-wife, but that is really irrelevant. She approached me because she saw another Hispanic person with a guy dog. She was drawn to the dog, and then the handler. Smile I have gone long enough on this comment, and I don’t know what sort of limits there are. So I will stop for now and hope that this is taken as constructive criticism and in a positive way.

  27. Melissa Roe says:

    Greetings,
    This comment will be long, but here it goes.
    Although this may not be the best approach, I can certainly agree with the reasoning behind this post. If you don’t have the time, energy, love and financial ability, a guide dog may not be the best solution for the independent blind traveler. You have to clean up their messes, and believe me they are no fun. You have to make sure they are well groomed, and well excersized. You have to deal with people who constantly insist on petting your dog, and even when you ask them not to, they do it anyway. Those are just some of the inconveniences of having a dog, but in this case, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.
    Last year, I went to the Seeing Eye, and got my first guide dog. I had applied at a guide dog school prior to that, to the shock of my family, but the school took over 2 years to even respond to my application. I decided the Seeing Eye was the best way to go, and the ownership policy was another bonus. I’ve had friends from other guide dog schools who couldn’t do anything unless the school, who took forever to do things at times, gave them the opportunity to apply for ownership, go to court for legal proceedings because someone’s dog attacked their guide dog, and loads of other issues. That wasn’t the main reason I went to the Seeing Eye, however. I just wanted a guide dog, and I wasn’t going to sit and wait while the other schools doodled around and came up with every excuse in the book for why they haven’t gotten to my application yet. Nevertheless, it was a decision I was glad I made.
    The decision to get a guide dog was a surprised to my family as I stated earlier. When I was a child, I was bitten by a dog, and all furry creatures on four legs scared the living hell out of me. Just to feel a dog’s cold, wet nose sniffing me sent me into a panic. Any dog or cat caught in my room, and I would scream for anyone who was within earshot to come in and remove it. I was absolutely terrified of dogs, and even trips to guide dog schools to hear about how trained the guide dogs wer wouldn’t calm my anxiety. Dogs freaked me out, and the thought of a girl who hated getting her hands dirty having to pick up dog poop made me sick enough to not even think about going near a guide dog for years. My family kept bugging me and telling me that guide dogs were so wonderful because they loved dogs to begin with, and they saw people with their dogs on tv. My family also, in their infanant ignorance, believed in the misguided perception that a guide dog would protect you by attacking anyone who tried to hurt me, so they somehow thought I’d be safe with one. I used to respond by drawing out my cane and swinging it around like a dangerous weapon. Anyone who came near me would have to face the wrath of the pokey pencil tip to the gutt, or a good bashing on the head with those heavy rolling tips. Yeah, I’ve been a victim of violent crime, but I decided that the next person to cross my path will be the victim instead. Anyway, my family thought I simply couldn’t function without having a guide dog in my life, but for years, I traveled down the road of life, perfectly satisfied with my furry, four jointed cane. Ok, maybe that was a bad joke, but you get the idea.
    So, what was it that finally turned me around? I started hanging out with more people with guide dogs. I saw how much smoother their walks were, and I saw the warm, loving bond between person and dog, and to be honest, it touched me. I even started having a petting frenzy with these calm, peaceful, sweet dogs once they were out of harness. I would even get up and feed my friend’s dog and fix her coffee so she had a few minutes to sleep once a month or so, whenever she came for a visit. I left the potty part to her, because that was the one part I was still hesitant to do. Anyway, I had been wanting a dog for a while, and seeing the dogs recently with my friends really confirmed my feelings towards getting one. Finally, I was accepted, interviewed and put into a class at the Seeing Eye last February.
    The big day came, and off I was on an airplain, something I hadn’t done in years. Adjusting from warm, dry California desert in the pacific time zone, to a snowy east coast was a bit difficult at first, but I gradually got used to it. My neighbor, who was originally from Minnisota, called me a wimp as I shoved a down coat and snow boots into my suitcase, during a warm winter in the desert, but I was getting prepared in case I would turn into a popsicle. Anyway, we got our dogs two days after my arrival, and boy was I amazed. I usually keep an open mind, and I’ll allow whatever breed the Seeing Eye gave me, but if I had a preference, I like labs. They’re friendly and they love food, and that’s my personality exactly. I love socializing with people, and I love to eat! If I were a lab, I’d get tons of leash corrections if you put garlic fries down as a food distraction. Nevertheless, labs are sweet, but so are other breeds of dog. I also asked for a dog that was a bit more laid back. I don’t think we can say that there truly is a “lazy dog,” because I’ve never met one. Sure, there are dogs that like to lie on the sofa and watch tv, but they also love to play fetch, and run around the yard with their owners. Some dogs, however, are more laid back than others, and because I’m a college student and do a lot of volunteering, I wanted a dog who was perfectly comfortable with stretching out under a desk and listening to boring lectures, but be ready to trek the campus at a moment’s notice.
    I was matched with Zappa, and although it took a while, we were starting to hit it off. The one issue he had was his pooping problem. Not only did he poop quite a bit, but he never stayed in one spot when he did it. Changing his diet helped with the amount and frequency, and granted it’s not the best food, but he ate it at school and it worked wonders, but there was the trail he was leaving, or the halo he made around me in the park area. Usually, I’m told that dogs get disqualified from the program if they can’t be trained to go in one spot, because it is very inconvenient for someone to have to search for poop all over the place, or miss a nugget or two unintentionally, which has happened to me. Other than that, he did excellent on our walks, and I slowly began to win his trust, as he won mine. He wasn’t an affectionate dog at the beginning. In fact, he wanted only to stay in his crate while we were in the room instead of play with me. The only time he wanted out was when I opened the food bucket, but that’s to be expected of labs, always wanting their food and never hesitating to turn down any delicious morcel that is placed in front of them. While in the lounge one day, he surprised me one day as I was rubbing his belly on the floor. Instead of the cold, hard floor of the room, the lounge has carpet, and he stood up after I rubbed his belly, and curled himself in my lap in the famous doughnut shape, then fell asleep. This was when I began to notice the bond really start to form. Tears welled in my eyes as I stroked his fur and listen to his snores, sighs and groans. This little doughnut in my lap, this loving creature, he’s starting to fall in love with me, which is what I’d wanted all along. We’re starting to bond, and I could never let him go. He won my heart the first day, but it took him a while. After a week, the doughnut continued to land in my lap while we sat in the lounge during those late night hours. If I could, I would have stayed there all night, but I was tired and my feet kept falling asleep. Anyway, the bond was there, and his walks in harness were amazing.
    You may think that I’m just trying to be fluffy, and while I am an affectionate person, I tell this only because it is the truth. The main reason I got a dog was so that he could guide me, but he changed my life in so many ways. One day during training, however, I broke my foot. Before I was taken to the hospital to have it looked at, I was told I wouldn’t be able to finish my training. I would have to go home without Zappa, without the dog I had started to bond with. I was going to come away empty, after I’d waited so long to get a dog. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. After hearing the news from the doctor that my foot was indeed fractured, and that I’d have to go home and walk around in a hot, heavy moon boot, I came back to the school and asked if I could say good bye to Zappa. As far as I knew at the time, I didn’t know if we would meet again. Even now, while Zappa lays beside me, tears well in my eyes as I write this story, but I want everyone to know just how much he means to me. The next morning, I bought a plush yellow lab from their shop, said one more tearful goodbye to Zappa, then limped through security at the airport, thankfully under the influence of pain medication. Four 6 hours I flew that day, in pain and depressed. I had been meeting a lot of setbacks at the time, and there was just one more thing I had to deal with. It took me years of advocating to get into college, because the local college was turning blind people away if rehab wouldn’t help them, but I finally succeeded. My husband had been kicked out of the Braille Institute over here, even though blindness was his primary disability. It was his slow walking and mental delays from cerebral palsy that they didn’t want to put up with. Sadly, I haven’t found an outlet for him, so he’s stuck in the house all the time, but then there was the endless years of waiting with the previous guide dog school, only to apply, get accepted, and now leave without a dog. When I finally arrived home, I still had to get my luggage, and of course, pick up dinner for a starving husband who was waiting for me, and all on a broken foot which hurt like hell.
    During the next 3 months, I was going through a physical and mental healing process. I would walk around the house with the weight of the boot, and the weight of grief on my heart. It was a trying time. It was made even more depressing when the school first called me and asked, “We can’t fix Zappa’s parking problem, so are you sure you want to keep him?” I have had vertigo for years now, something that was inherrited from my mother, and picking up his poops always got me dizzy. They didn’t think we’d work well if I was constantly injuring myself just to pick up after him, or missing some of his poops as I tried to find everyone of them, and prevent from falling over. Even kneeling down makes the room spin, so I was hoping as they continued to work with him during my absence, they would get him to go in one spot, I can reach or kneel down, pick up the offending pile of waste and we’d be on our way. When they told me that all efforts were failing, they wanted to know if I would consider getting another dog. They also said I could try something called a toileting harness with him. I know a previous commenter briefly mentioned it in their post, and I will tell you, that harness works wonders. When I went back the second time to complete the training, I got him back on his second birthday. It was such a joyous, tearful, furry reunion. I had missed him so much, but I knew I was still dealing with his pooping challenge. They were very, very reluctant to try the toileting harness with Zappa, even though he had been trained with it and was used to it by the time I got there. They were still insistent on him going in one spot, because, no seeing eye dog wears a diaper. I continued to persist, and finally, towards the end of the training, at a time when I was contemplating if I really wanted to take him home or not, they finally gave in and let me try the harness. Everything else was a complete perfect match, the pace, the pull, the personality. I wanted this dog so bad, but I was responsible enough to say no if I couldn’t take care of him efficiently. Anyway, I had the toileting harness for the last week of my training, and everything just clicked. I knew this was the dog I wanted, and we were going home, regardless of whatever else came our way. I was able to clean up after my dog without an issue anymore,and as for everything else, it just fell into place.
    The day I finally got to go home with my dog, I was completely triumphant. All my hard work and patience paid off. I flew home, nervous and excited on the plain. Zappa’s feelings were, “Get me off this dam thing. I’m a tall dog, and there’s just not enough room for me under this seat. This is going to cost extre in milk bones when we get home!” Ok, maybe I can’t speak for my dog completely, which is why I’ll never set up a facebook or twitter account to post in his perspective, but you can kind of guess what he was feeling at the time. He really dislikes flying, and to be honest, I don’t blame him.
    If people thought working with your dog at school was hard, that’s only half the battle. Once I brought him home, he became a totally new dog. I will say that it is expensive to take care of a dog. First, you have to pay for the food, grooming, and any other things that may occur during his lifespan. Just so people have a general idea, I pay 50 dollars for insurance each month, 40 bucks for food, and yes, it isn’t the best, but it’s the best I can do. Plus, I pay 50 dollars for the groomer every 4 months to get him the works, bath, nails, the whole deal. I also take him in every 6 weeks and pay 12 dollars to keep his nails ground down so they don’t get too long. I know other handlers probably think I’m wasting money because I probably could cut my dog’s nails myself, but I’m an overly cautious handler, it’s my first dog, and I’d rather play it safe and let the pros do it. That doesn’t include yearly pet exams, vaxinations, and any tests that have to be done. The insurance is optional, but I have it as a safety precaution. Anyway, not only is it expensive financially for a college student on disability who does the best she can to buy the best things for her dog, but you also invest time in this relationship. There’s a lot of training involved. Obedience isn’t always fun to do, and there are days when I’m bogged down by final exams, a husband who can’t cook dinner and keeps asking me when I’m going to feed him, and of course, there’s that 5 page essay due in two days that you haven’t even had time to start on because you’ve been spending the weekend volunteering and going to church. It’s exhausting, and at times I haven’t been the best at it, but it really does take time. That’s why I think it is necessary for people to see what it’s like having a guide dog. It’s not all just a walk in a breezy park. It’s not all a bed of roses.
    Having said that, I know one thing for sure. I do not regret doing what I did to get my dog. He means the world to me, and even though sometimes I may yell at him or get frustrated, I love him more than anyone else could ever know. On days when I’ve only slept for a couple of hours and it’s time to get up for school, the annoying alarm doesn’t even get me out of bed, as it keeps going off as a consequence of the friendly snooze button. It’s the cold nose that presses up against my body and the warm tongue on my face. There’s no husband asking me what’s for dinner. He’s not asking if I can help with homework. He’s telling me, “Come on, Mom. You can do it. I’m here with you. It’s another day, and we’ll get through it.” It’s my Zappa that motivates me to keep going. His unending love and loyalty is what provides me with strength to get out of bed and face another day.I again have tears in my eyes as I write this, and it’s not because I’m some crazy, depressed girl who has an obsession with her doggy. I speak from the heart, because I could never repay him for all the love he’s given me through these months. We haven’t even been together for a year, and the bond is already so strong, that if I were to lose him tonight I’d be a total wreck. I know that sadly, the time will come down the line when I’ll have to let him go, and although I don’t want to think aboutit, I know I will have to prepare myself for it. I once heard that dogs are furry little children who never ask you for your money, car, or phone, and are always glad to see you. I know people may not like that someone calls their guide dog a child, but in my case, it’s true to a certain extent. Of course, I got the dog mainly as a travel companion, but I also have a health condition that prevents me from having children. Even my in-laws, who have been pressuring my husband to give me a child for years, now refer to Zappa as their four-legged, furry grandson. There’s just a sweet happiness, an innocent love he brings to this household, that even people on the outside take notice. I think more of my dog being my super hero rather than my child, but sometimes, when he’s lying on my chest on the sofa watching tv with me, he’s my precious little baby. That’s the beauty of our relationship.
    Traveling with Zappa is a breeze. I get lost on my college campus all the time, because I’d never fully learned it before I got him. There are no orientation and mobility services in this area for blind people, but I don’t worry about that with Zappa. I just ask people to give me directions, we breeze around obsticles, and we eventually get to our destination. I feel complete confidence because Zappa does so well at his job. A cane can’t pull you to the left or right when there’s a trash can or security cart in the way. A cane can’t turn left or right when commanded to do so. The cane cannot, however, pick up the cracker that some disgusting student with a littering problem dropped hours before we walk along that path. Yeah, the food thing is something we’re still working on, but no human or dog is perfect. Both of us have made mistakes along the way, but we’re working on them. I haven’t had this dog for a year, and he’s my first, so things are still slippery, but I know that soon we’ll be sailing through calm waters, and everything will be fine. He’s still quite the adorable puppy, and he loves to do puppy things at home, but he’s mellowing out. My neighbors, college aquaintances, and family members say he’s looking so much better, and I’m not getting as frustrated as I used to get. Things just take time, and it’s not easy, since humans are naturally impatient. We are, however, going a step in the right direction, and I believe that even though we may have our good and bad days, traveling will continue to be an amazing experience with Zappa at my side, and when the harness comes off and my furry child rolls around on the floor for attention, I’ll smile and be thankful to God for blessing me with this amazing, loving dog who has brightened up my life and kept me going strong.
    Ok, I’ll stop being fluffy, but I speak the truth. I don’t think getting guide dogs are a terrible idea. My story is an example of patience and endurance. There are people who would do anything to get a guide dog for good intentions, and who worked so hard and waited for so long to get one, and appreciate just the fact that they can have one in their lives to make traveling so much easier. It is, however, important to think about what has been said here. Guide dogs aren’t for everybody. Years ago, I would have stood on the side of the fence with the other loyal cane users, waving my cane in the air proudly. Now, however, I changed my thinking and my life was blessed because of it. It is messy, expensive, time-consuming, and can be an inconvenience at times, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him, and I would go to the edges of the universe just to make him happy. I still have problems with picking up poop, and yes, toilet harness users still have their challenges. In my sleep-deprived brain, I may forget to check the bag for holes, then check to find that, in horror, the offending waste missed its mark. I have also put the bags on wrong once in my drowsy state, and poop got all over the handle. Way to go, Melissa. Care to try gargling with peanut butter the next time? It may not work, but it’s safer and cleaner! Anyway, the things I do are different from some handlers, and putting what people call a diaper on your dog every time you take him potty may be a hassle to some people, but it’s just one extra step to insure my dog and I stay together, and he and I are both happy and healthy. I sincerely hope people will think long and hard before just jumping head first into the guide dog pool. If it’s not for you, that’s totally understandable. If you are like me, and decide to go for it, be prepared for a very bumpy and messy ride. I hope that no matter what twists and turns you take in your journey, you come to a conclusion that only betters your life in the future, whether you decide to get a guide dog, or remain best buddies with that furry cane. Best of luck to you all! Blessings for you and your furry traveling aids.

  28. Jessiaca says:

    wow!
    When I read this post, I cannot believe what I was reading. First of all, I must say, that the reasons you give our all sound. Dogs can be time-consuming, expensive, a bit of a hassle, etc. etc. However, this does not make getting a guy dog and arduous, laborious, and horrible process. In my opinion, this post, or should I say the context of this post sounds incredibly bitter!
    Also, I am on my second guy dog. My experience, was extremely rare, and the exception rather than the rule. I enrolled at a school on the west coast, and my first guy dog though a good guide, I had to turn in. She was exhibiting behavioral issues, that I could not abide. My second guy dog was absolutely wonderful, his name was Kayden. Within a 28 day period, I turned in my first guy dog Shelby, and Kayden my second yet wonderful guy dog collapsed and died two days before I was to take him home. I am not however bitter, I’m sad, and very mystified as to what happened, but this does not make me someone who doesn’t want to get a guy dog. In fact, Kayden taught me that having a guy dog was something I really truly wanted, and could appreciate. I bonded with Kayden like nothing and no one else I have ever experienced he and I bonded instantly, and to a degree I have never felt before. He was a wonderful guide, and taught me that having a guy dog could give me a sense of freedom I had never experienced in the past. Even though his death was sudden, unexpected, and tragic, I feel he left me with the gift of knowing how to handle a guy dog, and love him/her unconditionally. I wouldn’t trade the short time I had with Kayden, and when I go to get my next guy dog, I hope and pray that my experience is just as wonderful, if not better. Having a guy dog is not for everyone, it is about a person’s choice, abilities, and preferences. However, a ranting, bitter, and nasty post does not get once point to crossed.

  29. Jessiaca says:

    Paul:
    Not everyone gets a guy dog simply to have a glorified pet. Those of us who choose to get guide dogs actually put our lives in their hands. I never for one second considered Kayden simply as a mobility tool. I loved Kayden and still do beyond measure, and beyond what words can express. For me, Kayden was not a tool, but a part of me, and I would have gladly kept him throughout his entire lifespan.

  30. Anna thomasson says:

    Thanks for your post. I’m a 4-time GSD puppy raiser and I love raising and am interested in discussions about mobility and dogs and blindness issues in general. Hopefully I will be raising again soon.

  31. Jake says:

    Wow, what a read this has been. While I can’t identify with a lot of what was said here, I thoroughly enjoyed the blog post and subsequent comments. I’d actually like to start mine out with a question. Is it true that one needs excellent O&M skills in order to even be considered for one of these dogs? This is, after all, what several people have told me. These people included my former roommate, who was himself a guide dog user throughout the last few years of his life. His came from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and they made a pretty good team. He was very moody though, and had some health problems so he couldn’t and didn’t take care of the dog sometimes. But our neighbors at the time were very happy to pitch in and take the dog out on walks and when she needed to do her business. One other thing he told me–which I have since found out is not true–is never to call a guide dog by his or her name in public or else they will get confused. I won’t bother relating my whole experience of independent travel, or lack thereof, because it’s a long and somewhat perplexing story. I posted a bit about it over in my journal, and I may post more about it at a later time. But suffice it to say, I have never worked a guide dog and I am comfortable with that.

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