I have a friend who recently got a guide dog. She has been blind since her early teens. She had an opportunity to get a dog some years ago but she has two kids she felt she couldn’t leave for several weeks to go to school to learn to work with a dog. This time, when the opportunity presented, she jumped on with both hands.
After an exhaustive review process, she got approval to go to guide dog school. A couple of weeks before school was over, she got her dog. It is a match made in heaven. Wella is a small black Lab with soft, silky ears and intelligent amber-brown eyes. She just turned two.
My friend and I met because she uses city transportation to come to the grocery store and then needs someone to walk around with her and help her shop. It takes about an hour to go through the whole store and there is always at least one backtrack for something forgotten or she didn’t remember it being on the aisle it was actually on. She loves to cook, as do I, and we have had many hours talking food and cooking. She has a slightly warped sense of humor, kinda like mine, and we usually have a good laugh or two.
She has been to the store a few times now with Wella and the dog still reverts to typical doggy behavior at times, licking a buggy where somebody spilled something sweet on it, getting sniffy when walking past the meat counter, things like that. Something she has trouble with is people coming up and petting the dog without permission. Now, granted, I’m the one steering the buggy, but Wella is still working. And you don’t approach a working dog without permission.
(Here comes the rant.) My friend says she has the most trouble with older people thinking they can walk up and start loving on the dog, distracting her from her job. Wella hasn’t been doing this long enough to not respond with wags and licks and walking toward that person. You would think that grown people would know to ask first. After all, you wouldn’t walk up to a Police dog and start petting without asking. You wouldn’t expect a bomb sniffing dog at the airport to stop and be loved on. So why do they think a guide dog is different? A co-worker and I said my friend needs to get a sign or vest that says “I am a working dog, please don’t pet me”.
We will see how this plays out with time and hopefully people can be educated about guide dogs. Or at least not get too offended when told hands off the dog.