I Want a Guide Rottweiler!

I have a very beautiful guide dog. She is black, very shiny, well proportioned, with very dark brown eyes. To add to this, she is extremely easily distracted which makes her a nightmare to work with at times. Not because of her distraction, which is handlable, but because of the numbers of people who will insist on distracting her.

A guide dog probably has to work harder than any other type of working dog, simply because most of its duties are contrary to its natural instincts. This is probably a very simplistic analogy, but a sheep dog, for instance, works using its natural instinct to round up its pack. A sniffer dog is rewarded for doing what it does best, that is, sniffing things out with its nose. However, a guide dog is trained not to sniff and scavenge, not to guard, not to chase or be over exuberant with people, all things that Labrador type dogs usually thrive on.

Last year, during my dog’s first few months of working, I seriously wondered if she’d make it as a guide dog as people on the street will insist on distracting her while she’s working, either by looking at her and gesturing to her, calling her or making clicking noises to distract her, or even touching, stroking and trying to cuddle her while she’s working. I’ve had to work extremely hard with her to get her to the point where she will pass these distractions without altering her course or pulling excessively. I’ve been called abusive names and accused of being cruel to the dog for not allowing bad behaviour.

This lunchtime I went to Sainsbury’s and visited the pharmacy counter whilst I was there. I told the assistant who was helping me that I’d be fine to negotiate my way back out of the store, which I do on many occasions successfully with the dog.

The dog was doing extremely well on the way out, working steadily and confidently. This was until a lady decided that it wasn’t necessary to ask to stroke my dog, but to just bend down and start cooing over her and blocking her way. I asked the woman to leave the dog as she was working, but was met with, “but she’s so gorgeous.” By now I had to stop and the dog was wriggling and wagging, pleased to have a distraction. I asked the woman if she would distract a working police dog and she said that absolutely she would not because they’re working dogs. So what did she think a guide dog does?

I was eventually given room to go on my way, but by this time, the dog had lost concentration and took off completely the wrong way, so I asked the dog to sit, tried to calm her down and gave her the command again to find the way. Before we could move off, the woman was there again, clicking her tongue and saying “this way doggie”. I eventually was forced to tell her, very directly, to leave us alone so that the dog could get on with her work. The lady eventually left me, muttering something under her breath about me which sounded far from complimentary. So once again, I’ve made an enemy, just because people think they have the god-given right to stroke a guide dog.

As I get older, I am becoming less and less tolerant of this type of behaviour. Why can’t people just stand back and watch and admire the wonderful work that guide dogs do, rather than wanting a piece of them all the time. These dogs are not super dogs or robots, they are just well trained animals who need to stay tuned with their handler. Yes, we are handlers, the dogs do not just take us where we want to go. We get there through team work and a lot of training together. The thoughtless and selfish behaviour of the public just constantly attempts to undermine the work of the guide dog partnership.

I know a blind person who would possibly do very well with a guide dog but they do not feel that they could have one. Not because it wouldn’t suit them, but because they know that they wouldn’t be able to maintain a civil attitude with the constant barrage of thoughtlessness and selfishness which I encounter.

Yes I’m angry. Primarily angry with the Guide Dogs Association who will not properly address public education and insist on portraying our dogs as cute and cuddly.

In the meantime I want a guide Rottweiler.

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About Mel Griffiths

I live and work in Nottingham, England and am blind. This blog is often centred around things that happen to me because of being blind. This is my space to write and sometimes people will disagree with what I write, but its the one place I have in which to be frank and honest. I also like to reflect on the funnier side of life from time to time.
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6 Responses to I Want a Guide Rottweiler!

  1. Mel,
    I am 100% with you. It seems to me, in the past 6 months, Bailey and I have come across increasing amounts of these people who think they have a “right” to pet the dog and it is so hard, and so frustrating. I’ve had him for five years now and like to think he’s calmed down so much since I qualified with him but with some situations I’ve encountered lately, I would hate to think how he would have reacted then. I can tell with his reactions, he’s getting more and more distracted by people’s cooing and pats and in the past few weeks I’ve been rather sharp with certain individuals. On 2 out of the 3 recent occasions, his handle was not in use, 1 time we were in a queue and I was getting my wallet out while 2 elderly ladies cooed and he pulled toward them. As I only had his lead wrapped around my wrist, I almost dropped my wallet. Then when I asked them to leave him alone, similar reaction you had was given, “he’s so cute, I love dogs” etc, etc. The second time, we’d been fundraising and it was hot and so when I sat down with him and my friends to relax and eat,, where I remove his handle from his harness, [I always leave that on because he does forget he’s a guide dog if I remove the whole harness and for the public to know he’s a guide dog also], and a man came over and so Bailey got up and started wagging like crazy. I was rather abrupt but I really did not want him being excited and distracted when I was about to eat lunch and he was hot and tired and we would need to get home afterward. The last time, made me the angriest. I was in a queue and because we were moving I had his handle in my hand and a lady started clicking and patting him so I told her to stop as he was working to which she replied, “he’s not, you’re not going anywhere”. How dare she tell me when my dog is working or not. I think I’d know. so I then informed her he was working and he shouldn’t be distracted no matter how cute and what puppy eyes he’s giving. People are getting worse. I used to be quite laid back about people petting him but now I’ve had enough and only if I’m asked, whilst standing still, or sitting, or he’s not excited do I allow. But I absolutely refuse when people just do it when they want to. sorry for the rant but I know exactly what you’re going through. She’ll be OK because she has you and you sound like you’re as assertive as we need to be with the general public. and I agree, it’s time Guide dogs start educating the public.

  2. Tony B says:

    A friend of mine – also blind – shared the link to this page. I too am all too familiar with the same experiences – and I have a large German Shepherd! Fortunately for me, I also have a Rottweiler in the form of my wife, who takes no prisoners at all when we are confronted with the ‘oh he’s gorgeous (the dog, who happens to be female)’ brigade. Well written blog. I would like a guide Rotty too, please!

  3. Orvil says:

    Yup! I 2nd all of that. I’ve had it all loads, just yesturday I bumped into a man on the beach who had his dog off it’s lead. it kept running up to my dog and i asked him to hold it back til I got past. He kept insisting that it was ok. I kept telling him that no it isn’t! your dog is distracting my guide dog and my guide dog is pulling me in circles. He must of pointed and said, ” Your going that way “. I felt like headbutting him I was that angry. he then started clicking his tongue and calling my dog. When I got home I wanted to cry!!
    I heard a young kid correct a woman one day for trying to talk to my dog whilst we were working. It’s funny that kids have more sense some times than adults. When i hear someone distracting her i say slightly louder than usual to my dog to pay attention. People then usually stand back and let us get on with it.

  4. Does your guide dog wear any kind of coat where you could write ‘working dog’ or something similar? Sometimes people don’t see the harness right away, especially if the dog is standing still. Not trying to defend some of the goofballs you’ve encountered, just wondering.

    Maybe some group could start training pit bulls as guide dogs. Maybe then people would leave the dog alone.

    • melspooner says:

      You can get a “Please do not distract” sign to put on the dog’s harness, but sadly, I found that people were coming close to read it then having a stroke of the dog while they were there.

  5. Lesley Smith says:

    I have the same problem, Unis is just as gorgeous and everyone wants to pet her. I don’t mind if they ask but it’s when you’re in a hurry and she gets so distracted. I’m trying to be hard-hearted and more assertive but it’s so difficult!

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