Tag Archives: guide dog handler

GUIDE DOG TALES VOL. 23

GUIDE DOG TALES VOL. 23

By Carolyn Dale Newell

Iva and I enjoyed three days in Gatlinburg alone. Why is this a big deal? It is the first time in my entire life I vacationed by myself. Last year, I made a few trips without my husband, but someone was always just in another room. My new independence feels unreal especially since we have only been together for less than a year.

In March, we spent a weekend learning routes to the Gatlinburg Convention Center, McDonald’s, and Starbucks. After another trip in May, I felt confident we could tackle this solo trip in August.

Being alone in a hotel room requires sticky dots on the microwave and AC unit to make them accessible for the blind.

People ask me how Iva knows where to go in a busy vacation area. We teach her to target certain places, and she remembers. The hard part is I have to keep a mental map of our surroundings.

We train Iva with a clicker, plus a treat and praise. This makes a spot memorable for her at the convention center, she took a right off the sidewalk. Next came the steps and then the door.

Navigating inside the convention center was challenging. A long corridor with many doors provides many opportunities to make the wrong choice. I cannot depend on sight to choose the correct door. The hum of escalators and drink machines whisper to me, “turn here”. Of course, Iva knows her turn, but I need to recognize them too.

Once we enter the exhibit hall, Iva learned one way to the auditorium. Then Iva targeted my seat with a luggage tag hanging on it, out of the four thousand possible seats.

We teach Iva to target the door at businesses using the same technique. A sighted person must work with me to ensure we are at the correct place during Iva’s training. Iva mastered six businesses and several crosswalks and curbs.

The first time we stayed at this hotel, I knew it was a lovely place for a writing retreat. The beautiful Smokey Mountains towered over our balcony as I pounded out words on my laptop. Iva made this writing holiday possible. God has blessed me with the wonderful gift of Iva. The freedom to walk the crowded sidewalks and go places with no one except Iva is exhilarating.

Of course, everybody loves Iva. Not one day passed without people inquiring about her. Many people offered assistance to us. Waitresses, store clerks, and hotel staff went above and beyond their normal duties.

A guide dog can be a handful. Juggling water bottles, collapsible bowls, and my Starbucks treat. People offered a helping hand when I gave Iva water. One man passed us, and I heard his prayer, “Be healed in the name of Jesus.” Only in Tennessee.

In a world filled with evil, good people still exist. As a disabled person, I could have been a target for the criminal element, but God did not allow that. Some people behave rudely, but good-hearted folks outweigh them.

If we listen to our TV’s and radios, they never cover the story about the nameless faces who stop and love their neighbor. How can we offer a moment of kindness to someone today?

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Guide Dog Tales Vol. 17

GUIDE DOG TALES VOL. 17

By Carolyn Dale Newell

My heartbeat accelerated as the dog barked at us. I heard a chain being tugged on. Once again, bark and clang. The third time was different. The chain broke. My mind raced as he came toward Iva and me barking.

I pulled my stun gun, but it was stuck. When it finally came out of the case, it barely popped. I only wanted to scare the dog, but by this time, he stood as if there was a barrier between him and Iva. Looking back, I believe it was angels. I froze as they stared at one another. Not sure what the dog would do next.

I began to video the situation. I could no longer see the dog, but that is not unusual with my limited vision. Then I detected a whisper, as if she wanted to go undetected by a sightless person.

Pointing the camera across the street toward the dog and his master, I questioned her about the dog running at large. She claimed the fence broke, not a chain. I later learned this fence was only a baby-gate on her deck. She claimed she was there all along, but she offered no apology. If she had been present, she would have jumped into action. Maybe she was too engrossed in her phone.

Foolishly, I thought this time the cops would help. I called. I waited. First to arrive were two nice policemen. They called Buena Vista Animal Control. We chatted and one admitted the problem of leashj-law breakers in the city.

Animal Control arrived. He viewed the video and accused me of being argumentative with the woman and him. Yes, my hands were trembling. My voice grew louder with frustration. Impatient with the lack of compassion with her and now with him. His sharp words and attitude alarmed me. He refused to charge her. He even told me to expect this in a residential section. Really? In a neighborhood where people know a blind woman walks? What happened to “Love thy neighbor”?

Neither of them understood the severity of this situation. We were only ten feet from a busy highway. Cars whip in there, barely slowing down. Yelling was necessary to be heard over the loud traffic. Screaming also occurs when I get angry. Angry that sighted people do not get it.

Distracting a working guide dog can have detrimental effects. It is equal to someone jerking the steering wheel from a driver’s hands,

Defeated, I walked off before tears escaped my eyes. There was no need to continue standing there with an officer of the law treating a blind woman harshly. No consideration for my safety. No consideration for the fear that consumes you when you can only hear your surroundings.

Visually impaired folks cannot expect sighted folks to comprehend our lives. To them, it was just a barking dog who got away from his owner. To me, it was a fearful event that could have turned into a nightmare.

I have to advocate for myself. No one else will. Being a Christian does not make me a doormat. Feeling like nobody understands, nobody helps, and nobody cares aggravates you enough to bring out the human instinct to fight. Don’t judge me, until you walk in my shoes.

Now, before leaving the house, I pray. I will trust Jesus Christ and His hand of protection. Satan desires to steal my independence and create dismay. Angels encamp around me and Iva.

My goal is to educate the public. Will you help teach others by sharing this?

Copyright 2017 Carolyn Dale Newell