Guide Dogs: A Guide

Guide Dogs: A Guide

A few questions you might have about guide dogs
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My guide dog, Smidge, is kind of a celebrity at Dartmouth. Somehow Smidge has managed to accumulate exponentially more friends than I have in the two years we have been in Hanover. Her puppy dog eyes and wiggly butt really seems to elicit happiness from almost everyone she comes into contact with. I was matched with Smidge, a 4 year-old Labrador golden retriever mix, by the Guide Dog Foundation for the blind in April of 2014. She has a small “smidge” of black on her right hip, so that’s how she got her name. Smidge is a great dog. In her eyes, her soul purpose in life is to make sure that I am safe, and for that I am eternally grateful to have her. She is an extra pair of eyes when I fail to see parts of the world around me. Smidge has given me the independence I have always wanted without ever leaving me to do things alone. She would do anything to keep me safe, and even when she is off-harness and “not working” she is always trying to use her vision to make up for my lack of vision. Watching Smidge do her job is amazing and it is understandable that seeing a service dog often elicits questions. Here are a few of the most common questions I get asked about Smidge.


1. Can I pet your dog?


Well that depends. When Smidge is working the answer is no. When I am walking around in public with Smidge in harness that indicates she is working. When Smidge is working she has one job to do: guide us safely from point A from point B without getting distracted. Distractions can be very dangerous for a guide dog team, so I ask respectfully that if Smidge is working people should ignore her. I understand that this can be really difficult— she really does have some heart- wrenching puppy dog eyes— but this is a very important rule. When she is out of harness though I usually allow her to say hi to people, so feel free to ask. Many service dog handlers follow different rules about petting their dogs so it is always a good idea to ask beforehand.

2. Are you training her for someone else?

People ask me this a lot and I can’t really figure out why considering she isn’t a puppy but no, turns out she’s all mine. It is understandable though. I am a really unique guide dog user because I actually do have a fair amount of usable vision. Before I got Smidge I never used a cane or mobility tool, which often surprises people, but I also never confidently navigated any new place by myself. When I first started working with Smidge I felt like she was actually taking away some of my independence, and I didn’t want to be taking such an amazing and valuable dog away from someone who might have needed her more than I do. I spent two weeks at guide dog school on the Guide Dog Foundation campus in Long Island and luckily their amazing trainers convinced me to give this whole guide dog thing a try. I am so glad they did because Smidge completely changed my life. Shout out to all those puppy raisers out there, particularly the family that raised Smidge. Your time and dedication changes lives. Thank you!

3. Does smidge know when to cross the street?


Everything that Smidge does is usually signaled by my command. No, she cannot decide for us when it is safe to cross the street. I decide that by listening to the traffic and knowing when the road is quiet, it is safe to walk. However, guide dogs are trained in “intelligent disobedience”. What “intelligent disobedience” means is that Smidge is trained to deliberately disobey my command if I ask her to do something that may put us in danger. For instance, if I ask Smidge go forward across a street and a car is coming she will deliberately disobey me to protect us from getting hit by the car.

4. Does Smidge ski with you?

Surprisingly I actually get this question quite a bit. The answer is no, Smidge cannot ski with me. I ski following a fully sighted person. I don’t really understand how a dog skiing would work. Like four skis or two? Open to any and all ideas for this one.

5. How did smidge do in orgo?


Smidge is the first student to sleep through every class at Dartmouth and still manage to pass. Who are we kidding? Smidge probably would have done better on those exams than I did. She has gone to every class I have taken at Dartmouth, I will be very disappointed if she doesn’t get a diploma when we graduate.

6. How long will Smidge work for you?

Guide dogs tend to have a working life of about 5-8 years. I expect that I will work Smidge for a few years after I finish school at Dartmouth. It also depends on the individual dog and how well that dog is keeping up with the work load. I will work Smidge for as long as she is willing and able to do her job. Then she’ll get to live out her life as a family pet. Smidge has spent countless hours doing right by me, it is my responsibility as her handler to give her the retirement she deserves.

7. Does Smidge live in your room?


I always find this question to be a little comical. Where else would smidge live? Yes, smidge lives in my room with me and my lovely roommates. She has her own dog bed underneath my bed and I am pretty sure everyone agrees she is the messiest roommate. She sheds way too much!

8. Can Smidge do any tricks?


I guess to the average person the answer is no. Smidge doesn’t really know basic dog tricks like “roll over” or “play dead”. Once I did teach her how to “Fist bump” to amuse some of my friends, but Smidge knows multiple verbal commands that help me navigate every day. Besides being incredibly obedient, Smidge knows basic directions like “left” or “right”. She knows how to navigate me around things I may run into, and can find an empty seat in a classroom. When I am disoriented, I can ask smidge to find the steps, stairs, elevator, escalator, or sidewalk and she will bring me right where I need to go. While she may not know the ordinary tricks most dogs know she definitely does have a few tricks up her sleeve.

9. Do you like having a dog in college?


Having a dog in school is not for everyone. It is a huge responsibility to not only take care of myself but also my dog. I don’t think having a dog would work for a lot of college students, but for me I wouldn’t want it any other way. Smidge has given me so much independence and happiness. I could not imagine my Dartmouth experience without her.

Cover Image Credit: The Dogist

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50 One-Liners College Girls Swap With Their Roomies As Much As They Swap Clothes

"What would I do without you guys???"
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1. "Can I wear your shirt out tonight?"

2. "Does my hair look greasy?"

3. "We should probably clean tomorrow..."

4. "What should I caption this??"

5. "Is it bad if I text ____ first??"

6. "Should we order pizza?"

7. *Roommate tells an entire story* "Wait, what?"

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15. "What do I respond to this?"

16. "Let's have a movie night."

17. "Why are we so weird?"

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19. "That guy is so stupid."

20. "Do I look fat in this?"

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23. "OK, we really need to go to the gym soon."

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26. "I wonder what other people on this floor think of us."

27. "Let's go to the mall."

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29. "I need coffee."

30. "I'm bored, come back to the room."

31. "Should we go home this weekend?"

32. "We should probably do laundry soon."

33. "Can you see through these pants?"

34. "Sometimes I feel like our room is a frat house..."

35. "Guys I swear I don't like him anymore."

36."Can I borrow a pencil?"

37. "I need to get my life together...."

38. "So who's buying the Uber tonight?"

39. "Let's walk to class together."

40. "Are we really pulling an all-nighter tonight?"

41. "Who's taking out the trash?"

42. "What happened last night?"

43. "Can you help me do my hair?"

44. "What should I wear tonight?"

45. "You're not allowed to talk to him tonight."

46. "OMG, my phone is at 1 percent."

47. "Should we skip class?"

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Cover Image Credit: Hannah Gabaldon

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The Bachelor Franchise Makes  'virginity' even more taboo

So Bachelor Franchise, Becca, contestants, and anyone else who would act like they did: you need to change how you treat those with opposite thinking and give them the respect they deserve.

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This past week on the Bachelorette there were twists and turns like every episode. From Wills leaving to Blake stressing out, to Colton being a virgin: it's another day in Bachelor world. For me, however, it wasn't.

The franchise handled Colton's virginity in the wrong way.

Colton explained that he was a virgin and then Becca, the Bachelorette, got up and left for a while. In doing so, she made him think that it will be a deal breaker. When contemplating Colton's virginity, Becca said that he "hasn't experienced life yet." While the date was going on, other contestants were talking about how they would never get into a relationship with someone who is a virgin and that physical intimacy is an important part of a relationship. I have three main problems with how this was handled.

First, Becca shouldn't have dramatically walked away and then told him she respected his choices because at that moment, she didn't show respect. Becca has also not received any backlash from her actions. If a female contestant told the Bachelor that she was a virgin and he walked away, there would be a major problem. Becca's choices and the franchise brings in a bit of a gender problem here.

Second, physical intimacy and attraction are important to have in a relationship, but it isn't the only part. You should know that someone likes you for more than your body and the contestants' comments illustrate otherwise. There needs to be a balance between emotional and physical, but going as far as to say you wouldn't date someone who is a virgin is pretentious and demeaning.

Third, The show perpetuated the media, society standard that being a virgin is wrong. It presents the image that waiting for the right person to have sex, waiting till marriage, or just being a virgin, in general, is something that shouldn't happen and you're missing out on life if you do so.

The franchise made virginity even more of a taboo. Today, there are dating apps and constant hookups that have made sex more mainstream. Every piece of the media portrays stories of people's awful first times or starting a relationship with sex. If you have chosen differently or want to choose differently, that's okay. There are good people out there who will respect you waiting for the right person (and not walk away). You don't need to have sex to experience life. That's like saying that you need to have a relationship to experience life.

We all experience life differently, but not respecting or crushing how someone lives their sex life isn't right.

So Bachelor Franchise, Becca, contestants, and anyone else who would act like they did: you need to change how you treat those with opposite thinking and give them the respect they deserve.


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