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Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes From Mom - On Seeing Eye Dogs

As promised, the following is Mom's 2nd blog post.  Today Mom is writing about her seeing eye dog.   I have only corrected a few typing errors. 

Hi Everybody,

This is my second bloggin.  I promised that since I have already discussed my vision loss that I would cover my beautiful and wonderful dog guide,so here goes.

She is a beautiful pure-bread Golden Retriever from Leader Dogs for the blind in Rochester, Mi. Her name is Honey- B.

I used my white cane for ten years before I was certified as legally blind.  When my doctor told me I immediately knew what I was going to do because I was never comfortable with the cane and had walked off curbs and over cracks and that is because I never had confidence in myself. After that diagnosis I asked my doctor for a note.
Then I called Leader Dogs to get an application never expecting to have to go through so much just to apply. After getting the application, I had to have letters and forms filled out by a Glaucoma specialist, my regular ophthalmic doctor and my General Practitioner. Then I had to have a video made of me walking and using my cane. Whew! I expected to have to wait a long time for them and their doctors to decide if I qualified.  I DID.  I was so excited when they told me on the phone that they had a dog for me and that I could come in two weeks for training with the dog.  That was 4 ½ years ago.

I had no idea of what to expect even though my totally blind friend filled me in on a few things.

The school is very large.
Every one has their own room with a bath and shower. There is also a TV and a very small refrigerator. There is a double bed, a nightstand and a wood special built chair bolted to the floor so that it can,t move if you should miss a little in sitting down.  There is also an outside door that is security sea so no one can get in at night because if it is touched from the outside alarms go off all around the building.  The door is there to be able to take your dog out at specified times or if a quick out is necessary for the dog.  Everything outside is fenced in and everyone has there own spot for their dog to use about the width of your room.

They have a very big dining room with large round tables  that holds ten people along with your trainer who helps with any thing that might have to be read or explanations of any kind.

I am sorry because I am getting somewhat ahead of myself.

I went to the school by train (it took 6 ½ hours) I they wanted me to take a plane but I have always been terrified of planes even tho I was on one to Miami when I was 20. (Because I always felt that if God wanted me to fly He would have given me wings and if he wanted me on a boat I would have fins)
 I left very early in the morning on a Sunday from downtown Chicago, my husband took me down to the train station.  I arrived at the school about 3:00 p.m.  After getting settled in they told me that training would begin on Monday morning.  We would be getting up at 6a.m. by the ring of a clock that you could hear back in Chicago and a talking voice that kept saying “it is now 6 a.m." If it were a person I could have killed it but as I said before everything is bolted down.  

They told me that Wed.  
was the day I would receive my dog.  Oh did my heart skip a beat.  At lunch that day they told all of us the names of our dog.  HONEY-B was mine.  We do not name our dogs.  Leader Dogs has volunters who raise these dogs for their first year of life starting at 8 weeks old.  The get the prevlidge of naming the dog.  In my case I couldn,t have picked a better name.  We were also told to sit in our chair in our room.  They bring the dog to you, open the door and tell you to call your dog.(Ididn,t know her breed at the time.  All of a sudden I heard her feet on the floor coming down a small hallway.  She took one look at me and said (SUCKER) All of her jumped into my lap – good to have a bolted down chair.  She licked and kissed me and snuggled into my lap and instant love was born.

We didn,t train for the rest of the day because they wanted us to start bonding.That was about 1:00 in the afternoon. I just hugged her and petted her and talked to her and cried at how wonderful God was to give such a precious gift. We did not bring them to dinner that nite because they did not have a harness as yet. Speaking of dinner, the food was very good. When we finally started training the next day, what fun but so much work.  The dogs knew better what to do than we did.  The trainers (l for each 6 of us) took us to every place imaginable that we would possible need to go when we got home. Malls, pharmacies, Meyers food stores, restaurants, RR crossings, the trainer took me to a local library for which I said why here, I can hardly read people will laugh. Then she told me that the aisles were very narrow and they have many things in the way.  Did you know that it takes about 2 weeks for the dog to learn the size of you and they will make the judgment if both of you can fit through some of the small spaces?   If the dog doesn,t think so they will stop dead until you figure out what it could be and can tell the dog which way to go.
That is really something and best hope it is not a person too stubborn to move and you have to pat down the object to figure it out! 

Never did I think about the playfulness of Honey-B . Oh Boy!  When they got their harnesses they came everywhere with us. The first nite she came to dinner with me the fun began.  She was put under the table and we sit on their leash so we know when they move she decided to play with all the other 6-7 dogs also under the table. When any dog moved away from us and we usually didn’t now it because were new at this our trainer would take the dog and put them in the office next to the dining room.  I was always looking for her. I think she was the most friendly dog in the group. Another gal at my table had a Golden also but that dog never left the spot.  To this day H-B as I sometines call her is friendly with anyone that comes to our home.  Without the harness on they are not working so they can be petted.  With the harness on they know they are working and have a totally different kind of demeanor.  All I have to do is tell her she is working and she follows me to the closet where I keep her harness.  I take her outside when we leave put her in the dog run and tell her to PARK- that is the word for potty which is not classy enough for a dog guide. 

When I hold her harness out, she walks right into it.  After that, she pays no attention to anyone but me.  After that, no one is allowed to touch her-talk to her-or make eye contact because all of that can break their concentration and they will then walk us into something and it is no fun to walk into a wall or into something in a store.  I have had it happen often.  Then I explain the problem to the person so it doesn't happen again.

I have never fallen or gotten hurt on her watch and that is 4 1/2 years.  I don't think I would ever want to be without a dog guide.

Below are some of the things she is trained to do.  All I have to say is find:


a door
a chair
turn right or left
go straight
easy (means don't pull)
find curbs
come close
leave it
go park (and they don't fool around)

(hand signs)

forward (also verbal)
left or right
come close

Thanks for listening about my precious H-B.  My next blog will be about my 17 years of Hell with Bi-Polar.

Pam's Mom

If you would like to learn more about Leader Dogs For The Blind, click here to visit their website.

Tomorrow is September 1st.  That I means I have another Guest Blogger to introduce to you.  I know you will love my next guest!!!  She's so sweet!  And she ix offering a lovely surprise to my readers!  Be sure to stop by and meet her.


Ruby said...

Thanks for sharing the love between you and your dog. Great story!

Dogmom Diva said...

Pam so nice to see a post from your mom and Honey B. Loved her story and what a blessing H.B. is for her..thanks for sharing!


Laurie said...

Thanks to your Mom for the enlightenment on guide dogs! I understand better now, why no contact of any kind is important to both the dog and owner. HB is beautiful, and what a blessing for your mother to have her in her life.

The Polka Dot Closet said...

That was wonderful, I read every word and got teary when you described meeting your H-B, I had no idea how it all worked, thank you so much for sharing. No doubt, if I ever found myself in the same situation I would get a dog, first I love them, and you would get to keep them with you always.


Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Hi Mom
This is an absolutely wonderful post. Enlightning and heart warming. I am so glad you have found your voice here and I look forward to your next post.
xx, Carol

Anonymous said...

What a lovely blog it was so informative so glad she is able to help your Mom where would we be without modern technology, they add so much to our quality of life. Thanks so much for sharing. Linda

Mosaic Magpie said...

Honey B is beautiful. It is wonderful you have her. I think it is amazing how she walks right into her harness. How much training are the dogs given before you are matched up with them. How are you matched up, did they give you a choice of dogs, such as which breed you would like?

Lynn Stevens said...

What a wonderful post about Honey-B and your mom, I got tears in my eyes when I read how H-B jumped into her lap when they first met! What a special bond between them.
hugs Lynn

Create With Joy said...

What an awesome post! I am so glad your mom was able to find such a special companion when she needed it most!


Magpie's Mumblings said...

Honey-B - what a perfect name for a perfectly beautiful dog. I hope it's okay to have a long distance love affair with her?? I would be a total puddle of goo over her I know. Thanks so much for the post - it was really interesting to read about guide dogs and their jobs. They are certainly a very important part of a life of independence.

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