Guide Dogs: A Guide

Guide Dogs: A Guide

A few questions you might have about guide dogs
92
views

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

To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
194996
views

Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.


So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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

19 Activities For The Adventurous Youth To Slap Onto Their 2019 Bucket List

Start off the year with fresh accomplishments that you want to complete!

12
views

A bucket list is simply a list of your life goals that you want to accomplish. Your bucket list should be filled with very exciting and grand items, like running a marathon in all 50 states or like traveling half the world. Each year i pick out the certain things that I try to accomplish that year! This year I decided to create one for everyone so that they could challenge themselves by going above and beyond to do these items on the list. It's not like it's impossible but you must make time out of your schedule to do these things. Some of the items are actually funny and daring to do but once you do them you can cross out one of the items of your list! Here's to 2019 with 19 things you should try to have on your bucket list!

1. Going to music midtown at least once!

2. Visit 30 states out of 50 in the United States

3. Go Skydiving

4. Spend the night at a haunted house

5. Say yes to everything for a day

6. Go on a hot air balloon

7. Break a Guinness World record

8. See all seven wonders of the world

9. Fly first class

10. Stand underneath the Hollywood sign

11. Meet a celebrity

12. Do a Color Run

13. Start creating a project life album

14. Walk on a black sand beach

15. Call for a group hug at a party and ask the waiter to throw buckets full of water

16. Buy a poop shaped cake for best friend’s birthday and make him/her eat

17. Kiss all the figures at a wax museum

18. Jam out with your besties in the car on a very busy road with the volume to its maximum

19. Watch the Peach drop on New Years Eve

Related Content

Facebook Comments