What is a Guide Dog? A Guide Dog, or a "Seeing Eye Dog" is a dog who has been trained to assist blind persons. As cute as these dogs may be, we must refrain from interacting with them because they are at work, and we would be a distraction to him and his owner. There are times when we need to simply just use our common sense to abide by that rule. And there will be exceptions, too, as life is unpredictable, such as what happened today:
I was walking by Davis Square, and I had seen a man and his dog, who was a guide dog. Of course I know that you don't interact with the dog because he is working. But how far do we go, when other people don't use their common sense?
I have seen situations in which people are just staring at the dog, not moving or not making way for the owner and the dog, for example, entering the train. The dog ends up feeling completely uncomfortable, because he has to find a seat for his owner, and people are just contemplating around, like it's a free show.
But today, later on, I see the same man with the dog, just standing by the curb, where someone was attempting to parallel park? I don't know if they were parking or leaving, but they didn't see the man with the dog.
I approached them, still only observing, and saw that the dog was taking a pee break. He was not wearing the harness, and I think the dog was unaware of the car situation. Nor was the owner. Or the driver!
I thought, hmm... kind of time to let my eyes be his eyes, this car keeps backing up, they must have been on the car's "blind side", maybe the driver saw the man standing on the sidewalk, but not the dog. It was just plain painful to watch this and not do anything about it.
"Sir! Watch out! There's a car backing up!" No reaction. The dog was smiling, wagging his tail, kept on peeing. The man did not respond, I started wondering if he was hard of hearing also, or if he could see a little bit, maybe he was legally blind.
So, I stood there, frustrated, and the car left. The dog finished his business, walked onto the sidewalk, and the owner put him back in his harness. End of story.
I am baffled. I feel like I was the only one who saw this, and cared. Everyone kept walking by. It's not New York City, ladies and gentlemen! It's laid back Davis Square. I'm talking about the pace and indifference, no offense to NY or Davis.
In the end, we have to follow our instincts and common sense, even when a dog is doing his work and a person with disabilities is able to manage independently.
In addition to that, I wish people were more attune to their surroundings, whether you are walking, driving, whatever it is... you can help just by being present.
We all need more education on how to act around guide dogs too. What to do, what not to do, etc. I'm in love with dogs, so usually the first thing I notice when I'm out and about is dogs and their owners. Usually, the dog first, then, their owners.
May this serve as a plea for a wake up call. See, hear, act, even when you think it's not up to you. Or you may regret having done nothing while a dog gets ran over by a car backing up, and his owner gets hurt, loses his dog, or worse. None of this happened today. I was there. I didn't move away from them, I stayed to make sure this car wouldn't ruin the day. It all resolved itself, yes... but there's always that "what if", usually after something bad happens.
Peace Out and Doggie Out!
For more information about Guide Dogs, you can go to http://www.guidedog.org.
In their resources page, we can find an etiquette reference, what to do, and what not to do while we are around guide dogs.
Here is the direct link: http://www.guidedog.org/content.aspx?id=1416
Etiquette and Guide Dogs
Guide dogs are the guiding eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired, and they are specially bred and trained for this most important job. There are several guidelines people must follow when in the presence of a guide dog to allow for the safety of the dog and its handler. Disregarding these guidelines can distract the dog, which can create a dangerous situation for the dog and its handler.
- Don't touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the dog while he is wearing his harness. Do allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of his master.
- Don't treat the dog as a pet. Do give him the respect of a working dog.
- Don't give the dog commands. Do allow the master to do so.
- Don't try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or master. Do assist the master upon his request.
- Don't walk on the dog's left side as he may become distracted or confused. Do walk on the owner's right side but several paces behind him.
- Don't attempt to grab or steer the person while the dog is guiding him or attempt to hold the dog's harness. Do ask if the owner needs your assistance and, if so, offer your left arm.
- Don't be over-protective or overbearing when the graduate first arrives home with the new dog. Do be thoughtful, patient, and try to inspire confidence in the master. In time, you will admire the expertise of the team.
- Don't expect too much too soon. Do remember that the dog is young and that complete harmony and confidence take patience, perseverance and time.
- Don't give the dog table scraps. Do respect the master's need to give the dog a balanced diet and to maintain its good habits.
- Don't allow children to tease or abuse the dog. Do allow it to rest undisturbed.
- Don't allow your pets to challenge or intimidate a guide dog. Do allow them to meet on neutral ground when all parties can be carefully supervised.
- Don't allow the dog on your furniture or in areas of the home mutually agreed upon by the family and master. Do ask the master to correct any errant behavior or trespassing.
- Don't let the dog out of the house unsupervised. Do understand its value to the master.
- Don't pat the dog on the head. Do stroke the dog on the shoulder area but only with its owner's approval.