To celebrate its 80th birthday, the Seeing Eye invited all its canine and human graduates to a reunion in Morristown last weekend. I love the Seeing Eye. I am very proud Hanni and I are graduates. But we didn’t go.
Here’s a dirty little secret: Being around a lot of blind people with guide dogs makes me nervous.
The American foundation for the Blind reports 1.3 million people in the US are legally blind. Only 7,000 of us use guide dogs. That means of the estimated 12,000 people who are legally blind living in Chicago, only 60 of us use dogs for guides. In any given situation, Hanni and I are usually the only guide dog team in the bunch. Here’s an understatement for you: Hanni and I both enjoy attention. And among the 300 who showed up for last weekend’s Seeing Eye reunion, we’d just be two more cute faces in the crowd. Worse than that, any attention we might get would probably be negative.
Just like parents at a playground, we guide dog users find it difficult to resist judging and comparing the behavior of our little ones. My dog handling skills are not ideal, and as a result my Seeing Eye dogs do not rank Best in Show when it comes to discipline. Both Dora, my first Seeing Eye dog, and Hanni, my current dog, have kept me safe for 18 years, and in all sorts of situations. But both dogs broke many Seeing Eye rules along the way. And the one rule Hanni especially likes to break? “Don’t sniff at other dogs.” She tries to ignore the dogs who cross our path, she really does. More often than not, though, she finds other dogs, well…irresistible. A reunion of 300+ Seeing Eye dogs could have been disastrous for us.
The people and dogs of The Seeing Eye were featured as the Pioneers of the Week on ABC World News with Charles Gibson last Friday, and the segment included footage from the reunion. Of course Hanni and I are now second-guessing our decision to stay home. Remember, we like attention. Maybe, if we had gone to Morristown, we would have been on TV!
Ah, well. Somehow, some way, the Seeing Eye managed to look fantastic on the TV segment without us there to help. The feature included an interview with Seeing Eye president Jim Kutsch and his wife Ginger. You might remember them from a post I published here after Mike, Hanni and I stayed at their house during a visit to the Seeing Eye a year ago.
The ABC TV crew also accompanied an instructor training a dog, and they filmed a litter of Black Lab puppies. You can link to the two-and-one-half minute story online, but be sure to have a Kleenex or two on hand. Mike teared up when he saw those pups!