Guide Dogs: A Guide

Guide Dogs: A Guide

A few questions you might have about guide dogs

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

Popular Right Now

9 Tips For Nailing A Tropical Vacation

Heading somewhere sunny and warm for vacation?

Vacation is finally here! Below are some tips for nailing your tropical break.

1. Pack sunscreen

Tanning is great, but the burn that comes as a result of not wearing sunscreen is simply not worth it.

2. Plan Ahead

If you are going somewhere you have never been to, look up thing to do, places to eat, and ways to get there to ensure a less stressful trip

3. Overpack

Ok, I know everyone says not to, but it’s better to have too much than not have something you need and have to go buy it.

4. Check your travel plans, and verify your reservation.

It is worth the few minutes it will take to make sure your reservation is still standing.

5. Make a list of things you need to pack.

Put everything you’re going to need on the list and check the items off or highlight them when they have been packed.

6. Roll your clothes to save space.

This saves so much space and can keep your clothes from wrinkling.

7. Go shopping beforehand.

New bathing suit? Sunscreen? Snacks for the ride? Go shopping and get what you need.

8. Bring a book.

Whether flying, riding in the car, or relaxing by the pool, a book is always great to have in hand.

9. Relax, have fun, and enjoy the time off!

Vacation is a wonderful time to take a load off and relax. Enjoy the time off and make the most of every opportunity! Be bold, be brave, have fun, and be generous with the sunscreen!

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

We're All Going To Die, So You Might As Well Live Your Life The Way You Want

Danny G
Danny G

In this life, an amazing thing happens. We are born.

Our parents stand there, looking at us as we come into this world. They cry. They laugh. They hug us. They shake friends' hands. They hug each other. They smile. They go through moments of fear. They become afraid of not doing something right. They worry they'll end up bad parents. They watch us grow. They make mistakes. They watch us make mistakes. And they see our lives change in front of their very eyes.

And in the end, there is one thing that is absolutely certain to happen after we are born: we are all going to die.

Now that sounds extremely morbid, kind of disappointing and I know damn well depressing. And it should be. Because in reality, after we are born, we grow up. We enjoy (or don't) our childhood. We live our lives. We make friends. We date. We have relationships. We go through good and bad times. We get jobs. We struggle with our lives. And in the end, only one thing is absolutely guaranteed: we are all going to die.

Our parents are excited. Hell, we're excited. Even if we're too young to know it. We're in this world. We get to see the light (that's not a religious thing by the way). We get to see the lights in the hospital room. Then we see the lights in our house. We see the lights in a school gym when we get older. We see the lights in hotels that we stay in when we travel.

Hell, it might be a religious experience, who knows. But in the end, we hear the stories about the light at the end of the tunnel. There is a song by the band Vertical Horizon that says the light is starting to fade. That's what happens when the end is near. And no matter whether we live for five years or one hundred years, one thing is guaranteed to happen after we are born: we are all going to die.

Now you can sit there in front of your computer, read this story and say "Why the hell am I living? Why the hell am I even trying? I'm going to work. I'm going to sleep. I'm going to eat. I'm going to have a relationship. I'm going to be bored. I'm going to be angry. I'm going to be sad. I'm going to be happy." But it doesn't matter, because we are all going to die.

Now the choice is yours. You can sit back on your ass and just wait to die. You can be a lazy bum, not go to work, not own a house, not have kids, not have a family, not find happiness, not be married to someone who bores the shit out of you, or not be overly happy every single day of your life. You can sit there and never have sex, never eat a Twinkie, never go out with a girlfriend, never play a game of cards, or never even walk naked the rain. You can have an attitude of "Why should I bother?" but either way you're still going to die.

I'm at a point in my life where I'm fitting in everything I possibly can. i spend a lot of time with a couple of my best friends. I spend time watching movies. I spend time officiating sports. I spend time finding things that make me happy. I'm no longer sitting around miserable, in a house where nobody talks to each other, there is no friendship, there is no relationship and there is no happiness. I'm going out and finding my own place in the world. I'm not going to sit around and have the attitude of "Why the hell should I bother?" It doesn't matter.

What you do in your days is up to you. How you choose to live your life is up to you. You can wake up tomorrow, be angry, pissed off and want to throat punch someone. You can just look into the sky and say "To hell with it. We're all going to die. Why should I even try?"

Or you can wake up with a great attitude, be positive, go out of your way to put a smile on a stranger's face, do something good for someone you don't know, change someone's world, pay it forward, find a new girlfriend, find a new boyfriend--hell, date both of them for all anyone cares. But find yourself. Look for your place in the world and do what you want to do. Make yourself happy.

You can sit around in misery, pissed off, angry and upset. You can hate the world. You can hate your neighbors. I don't give a shit. You can hate me. You can just spit on the sidewalk, quit doing what or who you were doing and just have the attitude that it doesn't matter. The choice is yours, but either way, we are all going to die.

Have fun with that. Me? I'm going to enjoy happiness. I'm going to enjoy life. And right now, I'm going to sit in front of my computer at midnight and enjoy a Twinkie, because I don't care if we're all going to die. I'm just not ready to go yet. So I'm hoping God puts it off for a few more years. I have some things I want to do. People I want to spend part of my life with. Places I want to go. And yes, Twinkies I want to eat.

So my attitude won't be crap. I'm not going to sit here and pissed at the world and pissing on the sidewalk, yelling and screaming that we're all going to die. I'm going to enjoy myself and do just the opposite.


Cover Image Credit:
Danny G
Danny G

Related Content

Facebook Comments