Tuesday, April 25, 2017

International Guide Dog Day

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. --Roger Caras

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. --Josh Billings

To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs. --Aldous Huxley

If you are the lucky owner of a beloved canine, you know the above sentiments to be true.  A dog can lift your mood, lower your stress level, and give your life meaning all in one fell swoop.  But to a person challenged by loss of sight, a dog can be even more.  A guide dog is a dedicated director, an affectionate attendant, and a “pawsome” protector.

Remember the story I told (in the blog National Pet Day) about the man who was led from a burning building to safety by his guide dog, Roselle?  Guide dogs are certainly up for this challenge and are invaluable to their owners in emergencies.  They also aid in their owner’s everyday lives, by helping them avoid obstacles, negotiate traffic, and account for changes in elevation like curbs and stairs.

Guide dogs really have amazing lives, earning the right to accompany their owners everywhere, including restaurants and grocery stores, and they enrich the lives of their owners immeasurably.  They have perfect manners, are eager to please and are willing to work.  They are incredibly smart, having been trained to disobey commands given them by their owners that are dangerous (such as stepping into oncoming traffic) and to avoid distractions.

International Guide Dog Day is Wednesday, April 26.  To honor guide dogs everywhere, let’s discuss some do’s and don’ts, so when you come into contact with one, you will be prepared.

DO address the owner of a guide dog first, and the dog second after receiving permission from the owner to do so.

DON’T distract the guide dog from his work.  Even though guide dogs are trained to ignore distractions (even cats!), it is still best to let the dog focus.

DO keep your dog on a leash when near a service dog.  When a guide dog is wearing his harness, his first order of business is his work, and he is not allowed to interact or play with other dogs.  It’s best to just walk on by.

DON’T pet a guide dog or offer him treats, unless you’ve received permission from his owner first.  Diverting a guide dog’s attention away from his work creates the same danger as distracting the driver of a car.

DO trust the guide dog to make decisions that are best for his owner.  

A graduate from Guide Dogs of America put it best when he referred to his guide dog as his “new set of wheels.”  In his commencement speech, he ceremoniously pulled out his red and white walking cane, saying, “Today, this is now my spare tire.”  Guide dogs open up a world of freedom and security to the visually impaired, and they deserve our utmost respect and honor.  You can read more of the touching story of graduation day for these guide dogs and their owners on PetMD’s blog, Guide Dog Graduation.

Author W. Bruce Cameron once said, “You can usually tell that a man is good if he has a dog that loves him.”  To all the service dogs out there, thank you for loving the good men (and women) of the world!

This post first appeared on PetPartner's website, International Guide Dog Day.

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