Guide Dogs and social distancing
Guide dogs are trained to be working dogs, not pets. These dogs are ready to go until they retire. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused everyone to change their daily routine, people are staying home and guides are not working nearly as much as they used to. My guide Fauna is always ready to go. On a regular (non-Covid) day, we can go out to a restaurant for breakfast, do a short morning walk, go to the store, play in the backyard with her favorite toy in the whole world the Jolly Ball and then she still has more than enough energy to go out to dinner, hit Starbucks or go for an evening walk. We are really going all the time and the lockdown has impacted that greatly. We still walk every day, and play in the backyard, but her normal routine is certainly odd just like all the rest of us.
Today’s article talks about how The Seeing Eye, National Federation for the Blind and Guide Dogs for the Blind are dealing with the impacts to the changes in schedule for guide dogs, and how the pandemic is affecting blind and visually impaired people as a whole.
In the article, the author cites someone who called into The Seeing Eye complaining about a guide dog team not practicing social distancing, and that the guide brushed up against her as they passed on the sidewalk. The operator at The Seeing Eye explained that the person was likely blind, and this seemed to cause a blinding flash of understanding for the caller. I can totally understand this, I have a tiny amount of vision, and have been told that I don’t “look blind” whatever that means. So, the first thing people always ask me is if my guide is in training. I always smile and tell them that she is my guide and keeps me from getting into trouble. This reaction to the comment always starts a conversation about Fauna and her role in my life, and I always explain the process that Guide Dogs for the Blind goes through when training a new guide dog. People always find that fascinating.
What can we do?
Be patient, be understanding and be human. Social distancing is important to keep us all safe, but realize that people with limited sight often have problems determining how far they are standing from you. This is also a good time to learn/realize that limited vision is very often an invisible disability. Not every blind person wears sunglasses, not every blind person “looks blind”, and not every blind person has a guide dog. Social distancing is important for everyone’s safety but so is understanding that some people have limitations especially in terms of vision.
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Here is a link to my Guide’s favorite toy, the Jolly Ball.