[nagdu] NFB and Dogs

Bob Hicks bob at seeinghandassociation.com
Mon Aug 15 12:21:21 UTC 2011

Hi Ann.  Thank you for the very informative recap.  I have nothing but 
praise for your very tactful presentation of the facts.  thank you!

Best regards,

Bob Hicks
Access Technology Specialist
Seeing Hand Association, Inc.
<bob at seeinghandassociation.com>
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ann Edie" <annedie at nycap.rr.com>
To: "NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users" 
<nagdu at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2011 4:49 PM
Subject: Re: [nagdu] NFB and Dogs

> Hi, Dan and everyone,
> It seems as if I've known about guide dogs all my life, and since I've 
> always loved animals and always had pet dogs and other animals, I just 
> grew up knowing that I wanted to have a guide dog some day.  Of course, I 
> grew up as a "partial", and in those days we weren't even taught to use a 
> cane, although I was far from capable of being an independent traveler 
> without such mobility aids.  So, for a long time I thought I had too much 
> vision to get a guide dog.
> I also grew up in the shadow of The Seeing Eye, so I absorbed a lot of 
> that organization's propaganda, or, I mean, public information.  I 
> believed the message that guide dog handlers were the cream of the 
> blindness crop, as it were, the most competent, independent, and 
> integrated into the general society.  So, of course, I aspired to that 
> same status.
> I had my first in-depth exposure to a guide dog when I attended a summer 
> camp for blind children, and we had a blind man for a music counselor who 
> had a German shepherd from the Seeing Eye.  Typically, I don't remember 
> the man's name, but I do remember the dog's name; it was Gem.  I do 
> remember trying to sit close enough to the counselor to sneak a pet of his 
> dog during our music classes.  I also remember that the man would put a 
> muzzle on his dog one day a week, just to make sure the dog was accustomed 
> to wearing the muzzle, as it was still a rule at that time that dogs could 
> be ordered to be muzzled on public transportation, if the driver asked for 
> it.  And one day a week, the man would not work his dog in harness, but 
> would heel him on leash instead, just to give the dog a day off."
> I also remember that in the suburban town where I lived, there were always 
> rumors flying about a man who had another GSD guide dog from the Seeing 
> Eye. The man, like many of the working men in the town, would walk to the 
> town's train station and take the train into NYC to work.  Rumor had it 
> that this man was very mean to his dog, and that the man would often jerk 
> hard on the leash and hit or kick the dog because the dog would balk at 
> going up the very steep and high steps to the train cars that we had in 
> those days.  They said that the dog was afraid of the train and would 
> cringe and whine. Everyone pitied the poor dog, but I guess they were 
> afraid to question the man and I guess no one thought of the idea of 
> calling the school to express their concerns.  Of course, in those days 
> dog handling techniques were much harsher than those we have available 
> today.
> I don't remember hearing anything much about the NFB when I was a child, 
> although I can see why the NFB leadership put so much emphasis on the use 
> of the white cane, because both blind people and the use of the white cane 
> were pretty much disrespected and discounted by the professionals who 
> worked with blind people at that time.  I can remember some rehab 
> counselors laughing and joking about sending us New Jersey kids out to 
> Iowa, if we didn't behave the way they thought good little blind teenagers 
> should behave.  That was back in the days when Kenneth Jernigan headed the 
> Iowa Commission for the Blind, I believe.  So I don't think they thought 
> much of the NFB and its philosophy.
> When I finally did get my first guide dog in 1991, after several years of 
> using the cane full-time as my mobility device, I celebrated this as a 
> further advancing step into independence as a blind traveler.  And I was 
> pleased by the positive effects the use of the guide dog seemed to have on 
> my image as an independent blind person with members of the general 
> public. So I was quite startled and shocked when I attended my first 
> National NFB Convention in 1993, as a member of that year's scholarship 
> class, to feel a definite prejudice against guide dog users as less 
> competent and independent travelers than those who used the long white 
> cane, and certainly having less potential to become leaders within the 
> organization.
> I can understand why the cane using leadership of the NFB objected to the 
> messages coming out of the guide dog training programs which portrayed the 
> dogs as giving dignity to pitiful blind people and portrayed the guide dog 
> handler as the elite among the blind.  But at the same time, I don't think 
> the NFB leadership should have attempted to build up the image of the cane 
> traveler by knocking down the image of the guide dog user.  I sincerely 
> hope that by this point in our history as a civil rights movement, that we 
> can all respect the mobility decisions of our comrades and accept them as 
> equally worthy of first class citizenship both within the society in 
> general and within the blind community.
> While I'm on the subject of change within organizations, I will fast 
> forward to 2001, when I attended the National Convention of the NFB in 
> Philadelphia. That year, one of the hot topics was the recent emergence of 
> an organization which proposed to train miniature horses to serve as 
> guides for blind people.  At the time, I was exploring this new mobility 
> option for myself, and I had followed with some distress the unfolding 
> saga of the strident opposition of NAGDU leadership to the Guide Horse 
> Foundation and to the whole idea of miniature horse guides.  There had 
> been an "exposee" of the Guide Horse Foundation written by the NAGDU 
> leaders of the time and published in the Braille Monitor, I think in April 
> of that year.  And I knew that there was a resolution in the works to 
> express the NFB's opposition to the GHF and the use of miniature horses as 
> guides.
> During the convention, I made a point of seeking out and speaking with the 
> NAGDU president and other leaders who were proposing the resolution, to 
> attempt to bring a bit of perspective to their views.  But I was not very 
> successful in this.  I also attended the meeting of the Resolutions 
> Committee, (or was it a meeting of the Board of Directors?), at which 
> proposed resolutions are discussed and prepared for presentation to the 
> entire convention for adoption.  At that meeting, only members of the 
> committee and the people proposing resolutions are permitted to speak. 
> However, the large and quite boisterous audience certainly made their 
> feelings known about the notion of miniature horses as guides, through the 
> frequent gales of laughter, clip-clopping and loud neighing and whinnying 
> sounds that filled the hall when the resolution against guide horses was 
> brought up.  It was obvious that the organization's leadership and 
> membership had already made up its collective mind about this subject, and 
> that they considered it an opportunity for high fribolity and good 
> comeraderie at the expense of benighted do-gooders who knew nothing about 
> blind people or their mobility needs.  While NAGDU was congratulating 
> itself on the fact that the NFB leadership was demonstrating its 
> acceptance of guide dog handlers and of NAGDU as a full equal among NFB 
> divisions by actually considering a resolution proposed by NAGDU, I was 
> again left wondering why blind people had to try to enhance their own 
> value by knocking down others for simply thinking or doing something 
> differently from the way they themselves thought or did things.  It was 
> obvious to me that these people knew nothing about miniature horses or 
> their potential as guide animals, and that they were just operating on 
> misconceptions and stereotypes, the same type of behavior the NFB was 
> organized to fight on behalf of blind people.  In the end, of course, the 
> revised anti-guide-horse resolution was passed by the full convention. 
> And as far as I know, it has never been repudiated or modified by 
> subsequent action of the NFB.
> This being said, in the years since 2001, and despite the fact that I did 
> choose to obtain a miniature horse guide for my own use and have been 
> successfully and happily working with that guide partner for over eight 
> years now, I have remained a member of NAGDU and have benefited from the 
> support of many NAGDU members and the information and discussions of 
> numerous topics on this NAGDU e-mail list.  I have never been asked to 
> leave the list and have never been denied membership in NAGDU nor any 
> benefit of that membership.  NAGDU's current President was even gracious 
> enough to put in a good word for guide horse users in the public comments 
> which led up to the recent revisions in the regulations concerning service 
> animals under the ADA.  The new regulations, in the end, did restrict the 
> definition of service animals to dogs and, with some additional caviots, 
> miniature horses, while all other species were denied the designation as 
> service animals under the ADA, which was a strong vindication of miniature 
> horses as legitimate service animals.
> In summary, it is my impression that within the NFB, cane users still 
> enjoy a better image as competent, independent blind people than do guide 
> dog users, although this would probably no longer be openly admitted. 
> However, in society in general, I think guide dog users are more highly 
> thought of (although not consciously) than cane using blind people.  As 
> for those of us who have chosen to work with miniature horses as our guide 
> animals, while we may still be the objects of ridicule to many among the 
> NFB leaders and perhaps to some other blind people, we are undeserved, but 
> definite, celebrities among the general public.  To me, it is always an 
> interesting experience to feel the changes in one's own status and regard 
> as one moves between settings and groups and communities, from family, to 
> educational setting, to professional settings, to foreign countries, and 
> to special interest sub-communities, such as blindness organizations, and 
> groups organized around politics, beliefs, or interests, and to observe 
> how the different opinions of people around one can mess with one's mind 
> and affect one's own self-image and self-esteem.
> As always, thanks for the opportunity for an interesting discussion and 
> exchange of thoughts.
> Best,
> Ann
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Dan Weiner" <dcwein at dcwein.cnc.net>
> To: "'NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users'" 
> <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Saturday, August 13, 2011 12:30 PM
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] NFB and Dogs
>>I know, what I'll do to respect other people is I'll put a big zip lock 
>> over my dog so they won't have to touch him, be licked or anything else.
>> That way  I can be totally respectful and all the dog guide-haters will 
>> just
>> love me for being such a good sport.
>> I'll punch some holes in the front part so my dog can breath, and woops,
>> I'll need some way for him to actually see so he can guide me.
>> The proceeding was sarcasm.
>> If you want an example of the reasons for concern among dog users of the 
>> NFB
>> try to find and read the October 1995 Monitor which was dedicated solely 
>> to
>> guide dog bashing.
>> Fortunately, either more tolerance is abroad in the land or those who 
>> feel
>> that dog guides are abhorrent have toned their public remonstrations down 
>> or
>> changed their mind.
>> I have never been happy with how the NFB centers deal with guide dog 
>> issues,
>> and especially with the case of Stephanie Doman, (spelling)?  In the Iowa
>> Center.
>> I know that just the average Federationist like me is not intolerant and 
>> I
>> like my Greater Orlando chapter and I have been in the Federation since I
>> was a kid-smile.
>> I believe that, at the risk of flattering Marion, that his leadership of
>> NAGDU has done a lot to change the situation and I applaud him, plus I've
>> known the guy for 20 years and if he can put up with me then he must be a
>> great guy--lol.
>> Now, here's an interesting question.
>> Thos e of us who have dogs now, what was our impression of guide dogs 
>> before
>> we got a dog?
>> I always loved dogs and thought a guide dog was a wonderful idea.
>> My thing was that I met a few people over the years who seemed to be 
>> control
>> freaks and I felt sorry for the dogs.
>> I'd meet people who were correcting or shouting "phooey" at the dog and I
>> said to myself "poor dog, why do I want to get a dog if I need to scold 
>> it
>> all the time".
>> Then I met other people like Sherri Brun from Orlando who were great to
>> their dogs and the dogs themselves were adorable.
>> Now, as a guide dog user I know things happen, people need to correct, 
>> and
>> so on, butt's interesting to think back on that.
>> Dan W. and the Carter Nut
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