Today Bark Magazine published a blog post I wrote about my first weeks at home in Chicago with Whitney. I start out the post describing how the Seeing Eye-dog thing is supposed to work. The blind person memorizes or finds the route, the pair gets themselves situated on the sidewalk, the blind person commands “Forward!” and the dog guides them safely to the curb. When the dog stops, the person stops. That’s how a blind person using a guide dog knows they have arrived at an intersection. If the person wants to turn right or left at that corner, the person commands the direction, and the dog turns. If the person wants to cross the street, the dog waits while the human being listens to traffic, and when it sounds safe to cross, the person says the dog’s name and commands, “Forward!” After confirming it is indeed safe to cross, the Seeing Eye dog leads the human to the other side of the street.
That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyways. Unfortunately, The near miss I had with my Seeing Eye dog Harper last year had left me more anxious than I wanted to admit. I wasn’t letting Whitney lead me right to the edge at intersections. She was already beginning to know our routes –- why make her go all the way to the curb, just to wait there before I told her which way to turn? From the Bark Magazine blog post:
Whitney’s decision to keep us away from the edge of the intersections, to just go ahead and make turns on her own, well, it meant I didn’t have to face the rush of traffic in front of us. I felt safe.
Until Whitney started crossing intersections diagonally, that is. Dang that smart bump! The girl is so clever that when she knew we’d be turning right or left once we crossed the street, she figured hey, why not save time? We’ll just go kitty-corner.
For those unenlightened ones out there, a “smart bump” is the occipital bone on the top of a dog’s head. All retrievers have this bump, and when it really sticks out the way Whitney’s does, we call them “smart bumps” and convince ourselves our dogs are smarter than others. And so, my two-year-old genius was not only crossing intersections diagonally, she was also anticipating a turn at every corner, veering as we approached intersections and leaving us all discombobulated. And if there is one place you especially don’t want to feel discombobulated with a Seeing Eye dog, it’s when you’re approaching a city intersection.
So are you wondering what Seeing Eye trainer Chris Mattoon suggested when he visited last week, and whether his advice is working for Whitney and me? Well, I guess you’ll have to link to my post on the Bark Magazine blog to find out!