Paul Kirk, the principal at Roslyn Road elementary School, was the lucky man who got to introduce us to the student audience at our visit yesterday. During my speech to the kids, I explained the three rules to keep in mind if you happen to see a guide dog with a harness on: don’t pet the dog, don’t feed the dog, and don’t call out the dog’s name.
“Those things can distract a Seeing Eye dog,” I told them. “It’d be like if someone nudged you or kept calling your name wile you were working on your spelling words at school. You wouldn’t be able to concentrate on your work.”
I suggested we come up with a fake name for Hanni. “If you use her fake name to say hi to her, she wont’ notice,” I said. “She’ll think you’re talking to someone else!”
I asked the kids what their principal’s name was. They chorused an answer. “But what’s his first name?” I asked.
Hmmm. Paul wouldn’t work for Hanni. “How about we call her Pauline?”
The kids loved the idea. During the Q & A part of the session, a student asked if Pauline sleeps with me. It was a good question – it gave me a chance to explain that Seeing Eye dogs are not allowed on furniture. “But she sleeps as close as she can to me,” I said. “She lies right next to my bed. If I get up for a glass of water in the night I have to be careful so I don’t step on her.”
Students asked whether or not Pauline likes other dogs, does Pauline ever slip on the ice, what does Pauline do if she comes across a whole in the sidewalk. But then came a question I hadn’t heard before. “Have you ever fallen out of bed?”
“Yes!” I said. It took a second for me to figure out where this question had come from, but suddenly the light bulb went on over my head. “But I fell off the other side – not on Pauline!”