The Symbiosis of the Guide Dog Team

I am often asked questions about the nature of my relationship with my guide dog.  A topic we frequently touch on is the interdependence of it.  I like to point this out to people, because no one is surprised that I depend on my guide dog.  After all, she is my eyes, in a sense… but they usually don’t think  about the fact that my dog depends on me, too.

My guide dog does have a lot of responsibility, especially for a dog.  Prim protects me.  She keeps me from walking into traffic, or stepping off the edge of a platform or stage.  She navigates me smoothly around things in our path, and shows me when there is an obstacle like a parked car or construction barrier obstructing our way entirely.  Prim provides for me.  She helps me find landmarks like doors, steps, trashcans, and chairs, and is a source of ever-present laughter and comfort besides.

But like with any other dog, I have a great deal of responsibility as Prim’s partner and handler.  I protect Prim.  I make intelligent decisions about when to cross the street, and think about Prim’s physical and emotional safety in any given environment.  There are some places I simply do not take my guide dog due to risk of injury or discomfort.  Crowded bars and loud concerts are just two examples of places where paws could be too easily trampled and ears too easily overwhelmed.  There have also been situations where I had to physically protect my guide dog when she was in danger of being attacked by another canine.  I provide for Prim.  I feed her, groom her, take her outside, take her to the vet for medical care, and of course have the enormous pleasure of being her primary playmate and cuddle buddy.

It’s a relationship of giving, not 50/50, but 100/100.  Of course, we both fail, but the beauty is that not only do we both provide and protect, but we also persevere.  There are days I am convinced I have a two-year-old child on a leash, and there are days that Prim is convinced she will starve to death because we get home late and I forgot to throw her dinner in my backpack, but I keep loving her even after she throws tantrums about not being able to eat the cat, and she keeps loving me after I feed her an hour or two later than our schedule dictates.  In that way, it is undoubtedly a symbiosis of sorts, but not a symbiosis of chance, rather one of choice.  Primie, I’m so glad I get to choose you.

A Second Journey: Update on Oleta

Many of you have asked where Oleta will be staying and what she will be doing during my absence.  I was hoping to get something directly from her and post it here, but I’m afraid she does not have access to a computer or phone and so I will have to do the updating I’m afraid. 🙂

For the first few days, Oleta stayed with my Dad.  She was actually able to go into work with him, and made quite a few new acquaintances during her time in the office.  Over the weekend, she visited with her friend Dozer, a family friend’s chocolate lab, though Dad did say that even that get together didn’t cheer her up, she’s been missing me so much.  That makes me so sad, because I can’t phone her and tell her that I will be back soon, and that she doesn’t have to worry, but then again, I can’t even seem to convince myself of that so I guess it’s a lost cause anyway.  It’s also comforting in a way, to know that she is missing me as much as I am missing her.  I’m not really alone in this, even though it feels like it sometimes.

Monday, my Mom took her for a walk and then met up with a puppy raiser from Guiding Eyes, who was driving one of her puppies up to New York.  With a little coaxing from Mom, Oleta jumped into the crate in the back of the puppy raisers van, next to her travel buddy Hendrix, a five month old German Shepherd pup.  Later, Mom got a call from Guiding Eyes, assuring her that Oleta will be spoiled rotten at the GEB kennels.  She has a roommate, goes out to play with the other dogs multiple times a day, will get a thorough check up from the vet there, and will be worked several times a week by the trainers.

I hate to think of her there, worrying that I abandoned her, but I am glad that Guiding Eyes is so willing to go above and beyond to care for my sweet guide and dearest companion.  I’m sure the work with the trainers will do her good; getting into harness is something she wouldn’t be able to do if she were staying with my family, so I’m very pleased that she will have that opportunity.  Work is always a great distraction, and this way Oleta and I will both have plenty to keep us occupied.

I am still aching for her, but I am glad that she is safe and in good hands and paws.  I hope that this can somehow prove to be a regenerative period for both Oleta and I, and that our bond can only grow stronger during our separation.  I love you Oleta.