[nagdu] Questions About Guide Dogs

Shannon L. Dillon shannonldillon at hotmail.com
Wed Aug 31 23:33:27 UTC 2011

Hi Tatyana:
My name is Shannon and I have a German Shepherd guide.  She is my first guide. I've had her for five years and a few months.  
I wanted to respond to your message because I thought I would have a lot of difficulty with the transition from cane to dog.  Or, maybe I did have difficulty with the transition from cane to dog.  I am a good cane user.  I love my cane, and still love my cane, and I definitely use it in places.  
I think it took a while for me to automatically trust the dog rather than to want to reach out with my cane and feel.  My automatic response was to want to use a cane to reach out and feel things.  It took a couple of months definitely.  I learned the hard way a couple of times.  I was in a place where I was sure that I knew exactly where the curbs were.  Well, I was a little farther away from the building than usual, and I told my dog to go forward, and she wouldn't, letting me know that she thought there was a curb there and she wouldn't move until I found it with my foot.  And I didn't believe her.  I don't know what I was thinking, but I dropped her harness and figured that I would lead her past whatever was causing her not to move.  Well, quite unknown to me, the there was a step there that I didn't know about because it was in a different part of the path than I usually walked, and so I tripped down the curb.  I remember it hurting a little. I probably had heels on because I was walking to work.  I twisted my ankle a little. So that was a wake-up call that really helped instill in me the need to pay attention to my dog.  She did her job right.  I just wasn't paying attention.  So, I don't know how many new users do something quite as dumb, but it was a good lesson for me.  
I also remember being at a camp like a summer camp, for a networking weekend, where there were paths among grass, and soem of the paths weren't that wide.  I had only had my dog for a month, and I was used to working in regular streets and sidewalks, and in airports and buildings (because of my job), but I hadn't had very much experience working her in a setting where there were irregular paths scattered among grass.  I honestly just used my cane to find the paths and lead my dog.  I got some negative feedback for doing it, too, from other people at the camp.  They asked if I had gotten a guide dog for a pet or if I was planning to use it.  
Today, being more experienced, I don't know if I'd do it the same way.  I haven't been back to the same place so I can't evaluate it.  For a long time, though, I carried a telescoping cane in my backpack, or my briefcase, or my purse, and if I felt nervous or frustrated, or if I wanted a landmark to make me feel better, I used my cane and led the dog.  I don't remember how often I actually used the cane and led the dog, but I can tell you that for me, in the beginning, I felt a lot better knowing my cane was somewhere I could get to it. So you may want to consider that to see if that would make you feel more comfortable.  Also, the other important thing to know is, I'm not the only one who does this.  I didn't know that at the time.  I sort of felt like I must be weird or something.  The truth is, since then, I have known other people who choose to use their canes in some circumstances and their dogs in others, and it's really about what works for you.

> From: tagriru at gmail.com
> To: nagdu at nfbnet.org
> Date: Wed, 31 Aug 2011 19:02:41 -0400
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] Questions About Guide Dogs
> Dear Buddy,
> You are explaining well about macro and micorview. Frankly I can't imagine
> that I totally rely on a dog and not use my cane. It's something very
> different and obviously it takes time to retrain brain from micro to macro.
> I would like to hear stories from somebody who had difficulties with such a
> transition. And thank you all again.
> Tatyana.
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Buddy Brannan" <buddy at brannan.name>
> To: "NAGDU Mailing List,the National Association of Guide Dog Users"
> <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 10:00 PM
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] Questions About Guide Dogs
> > Hi Larry,
> >
> > Yeah, these guys are great in what they can be taught. Given patience,
> > time, and some training tricks you're likely to learn at guide dog school
> > and pick up along the way here and elsewhere, a dog's ability to learn new
> > skills is amazing.
> >
> > I do think it's important to discuss the differences in orientation with a
> > dog versus with a cane. While you will use many of the same skills, such
> > as finding landmarks and using environmental clues to determine where you
> > are in space, the landmarks and clues you use with a dog will of necessity
> > often be very different from the ones you use with a cane. A cane will
> > give you a lot of tactile landmarks, and you get a very in-depth idea of
> > your very immediate surroundings. This way, you can know that you turn
> > into the second driveway after the third mailbox on your right. Or, you
> > can know that just past the bench at shin level, there is a trash can, and
> > just past that you'll find a bus stop pole. These kinds of things aren't
> > as easy to do with a dog. Since your dog will treat things in your path as
> > obstacles, you can't very well use them as landmarks, so you have to use
> > other things, such as the change in acoustics (for instance, are you under
> > an overhanging roof or not), changing in pavement texture, and the like,
> > not to mention estimating distances to things. As time goes on, you'll
> > even learn to use things like your dog's reaction as environmental clues
> > unfamiliar routes. Strange but true. I think someone said that with a dog,
> > you've got more of a macro view of your surroundings, where using a cane
> > gives you a micro view, or a more detailed view. Some people don't care
> > about that, while others may well feel very lost without all of the very
> > immediate tactile information one gets from a cane. I say there's a place
> > for both. Sometimes the close-in tactile world is a great tool for
> > teaching your dog something new, but sometimes that same view gets in the
> > way and slows you down. I'm sure I'm not explaining this well at all.
> > --
> > Buddy Brannan, KB5ELV - Erie, PA
> > Phone: (814) 860-3194 or 888-75-BUDDY
> >
> >
> >
> > On Aug 30, 2011, at 9:48 PM, Larry D. Keeler wrote:
> >
> >> My neighborhood is very walkable as well. My mobility is pretty good. I
> >> like working with my Holly for a few reasons. We can move really fast
> >> and not have to worry about bumping into anything. For instance, I have
> >> to transfer busses often. I try to run to catch the next bus and bump,
> >> bump, bump!! I would have to have a head like a musk ox to survive all
> >> of those posts I bump into. And a 30 foot cane to hit them in time to
> >> stop! I haven't hit 1 post with Holly! Also, Holly is just a great
> >> companion! I forgot, she also will go around those cars who insist on
> >> sticking out in stopped traffic and finding those curb cuts quickly. And
> >> she also finds the push button lights and now, the sheltered bus stops!
> >> I'm trying to think of a way she can find the bus stops that are not
> >> sheltered.
> >> Intelligence is always claimed but rarely proven!
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