“How much does Hanni weigh?”
That was the first question asked after our presentation at Jackson Middle School in Orlando Friday. Not a bad question, really. Just one I hadn’t heard after any of the talks I’d given before.
Seems every time we visit a school, one of the kids in the audience comes up with a new question. If I think it through later, I can usually figure out why that particular subject matter came up.
Take the time I went to Hendricks School on the south side of Chicago, for example. The kids there came from families with low incomes, but they had the same curiosity, and they asked similar questions, as the kids I visit in well-to-do suburbs. You know, things like “How do you know if it’s time to wake up?” and “Is it scary being blind?”
Hendricks is located near White Sox park, and since Safe & Sound has an illustration of Hanni and me watching a ballgame, the kids had all sorts of questions about that. “What if you got hit by a ball?” I told them we try to sit under netting. “What if there’s a hole in the net?” I told them Mike usually comes with us to ballgames, so he warns me if a ball is coming. “What if he is going to get hot dogs so he isn’t there and the ball comes?” The ballgame questions went on and on. And it was really, really fun.
Jackson Middle School in Orlando was not that different from Hendricks. I found out from teachers there that a significant number of kids who attend Jackson are homeless. With that in mind, I emphasized how important it is to find someone you can trust, I talked about the trust Hanni and I have in each other, how we work as a team. “We’ve worked together eight years,” I Said. “We have a strong bond. We know each other very, very, well.” Hanni is nine, I told them, and most Seeing Eye dogs retire at around ten years old.
The teacher broke in then. “What happens after they retire?” she asked. I explained my three options:
- I could bring Hanni back too the Seeing Eye, and they’ll find someone to adopt her, or
- we could find a friend who wants to adopt her, or
- we could keep her as a pet, and when I bring my new Seeing Eye dog home we’d have two dogs.
Later on LouisLuis, the boy who had asked how much Hanni weighed, had another question. I answered, then asked if he’d mind answering one for me. “How come you wanted to know how much she weighed?”
The answer was simple. He lived in an apartment where they only let you have dogs who weigh less than 45 pounds. “I was hoping I could adopt Hanni when she retires, but I guess not.” he said, the disappointment obvious in his voice.
LouisLuis is just one of many, many people who admired Hanni during our trip to Florida. She wowed the audience at our Playing by Ear session at the Early Childhood Association of Florida conference Saturday morning, and then again during our book signing at UrbanThink Bookstore that afternoon.
I’m composing this message using my laptop on our flight back to Chicago, still marveling at the wonders of technology: my computer is calling out the letters into my headphones as I type, even way up here thousands of miles in the sky.
Pilot just came on telling us to shut down electronic devices, gotta go. Oh, but in case you were wondering: Hanni weighs 63 pounds.