This post was most recently updated on June 29th, 2018
There are plenty of inspiring accounts out there of successful relationships between the sight-impaired and their faithful guide dogs, which is no surprise given the nature of these unions. The bond forged between a human in need and his trusty animal companion is one shaped by necessity that grows into respect, and then into affection. Simple though they may be, each tale underscores the importance of guide dogs in the role for which they are trained, and the constant need to keep providing them to their beneficiaries.
Joan Robinson, blind since college and a resident of Toronto, Canada, had relied on a cane for the longest time to get around, which wasn’t a lot of the time due to the sedentary nature of her life. However, when she retired at the age of 60, she grew determined to do much more exploring, more travelling, now that she had more time on her hands to do so. A cane simply wouldn’t do for this next phase. This was when she began to seriously consider obtaining a guide dog to help her. The decision to do so was helped along by an encounter with another blind woman, Maya Jonas, who was using a guide dog when they met in an elevator and neither of them could figure out the button that would take them to the mezzanine of the building. They eventually became good friends, and Joan finally took the leap with her new partner, Tallulah, a pleasant, friendly guide dog that turned out to be just what she needed.
Of course, the adjustment phase was difficult at first, as Joan had been used to anticipating and warily soldiering forward with her cane for most of her life, and it was certainly a shift to allow Tallulah to do her job and lead. Soon, Joan learned to trust that her guide dog would not steer her wrong, and discovered a much more expansive world, made easier to navigate thanks to her partner.
Erin Rumer is another brave young lady who learned to overcome her blindness by being fiercely independent about her lifestyle, taught early on by her parents not to sit on her pity pot and do her best with what she had. It was certainly a challenge for her, with three sighted siblings and friends who were growing up “normally”, able to do many things she couldn’t, like drive. Fortunately, she decided she could do with a little assistance, then, from a guide dog, in order to compensate for the reality of her blindness. She describes the experience as liberating, with her able to move around much more quickly than before, not having to bump into everything all the time, and able to focus more on things like getting a college degree and meeting her future husband.
Trust is one of the biggest issues with using a guide dog, entrusting your safety and well-being to a non-human who can’t communicate with you or understand things the way another person would. All of these concerns quickly melt away, however, when you realize just how rigorously-trained these essential companions are, in no small part due to the support of people who donate to training institutions for guide dogs and sponsor their development.