A few of you have asked me, as someone who is still partially sighted, what a guide dog does for me. Well, let me tell you.
First, if you will recall I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, which means I have hardly any peripheral vision. I also have cataracts and something else going on funky with my eyes where some days I can see okay and some days it’s really really blurry. Glasses don’t help on those really really blurry days much. The rods and cones in my eyes are dying off slowly and so color vision, depth perception, and night vision also are affected. Well, depth perception I still have… a tiny bit but not much. Night vision? Haha, what a joke. Color vision? I still have a good amount of but every once and awhile I’ll notice something’s funky. So now with that in mind, let me explain what a guide dog does for me personally. This is not by any means an all inclusive list, by the way.
- Tells me when there is an up or down curb
- Tells me when there are standing signs on the ground that I’m about to bump into/avoids any obstacles in our path
- Tells me when there is a big crack or something on the ground that I’m about to trip over
- Helps me find elevators, doors, seats on a bus, etc
- Once I decide to cross the street, she makes sure it is safe
- Helps me navigate around crowds of people (huge help!)
- Takes me to familiar places such as my apartment, a classroom, and other familiar landmarks
- Finds curbs when I’m crossing a street
- Follows sidewalks
- Moves me around so I don’t bump into poles in the sidewalk
- Leads me in a straight line
- Finds the stairs for me and stops at the top/bottom of them
- Allows me to be able to walk and enjoy myself rather than worry about what my cane is going to hit next/when my cane is going to come jolting into me (big one!)
- Navigate around construction zones on campus
- Tell me when we’ve approached a corner or somewhere where I need to make a choice about the direction we go in
- Navigate around cars (parked and moving)
- Make sure that I don’t bump into anything that is shoulder/head height such as branches, electrical boxes on the sides of buildings, etc. These are things my cane couldn’t find and I would hurt myself on frequently.
- I’m completely blind at night so she basically helps me do everything then. I have no useable vision at night
Basically my vision isn’t dependable for me to get from point A to point B. That is why before my guide dog, I was a full-time cane user. But the cane could get really annoying, didn’t help at all with orientation, and was at times, painful. Makiko, my guide dog, allows me to get from point A to point B, with grace, independence, freedom, and confidence. It is such an amazing feeling. I have travelled at night and not felt scared due to my vision loss. I have no sight whatsoever at night to even try to make things out and so Makiko is my everything at night, and mostly my everything during the day. That’s the best way I can think to describe it.
Guide dogs have to not only watch out for themselves but have to extend their ” height and width” so to speak several feet so to watch out for me (someone who is several feet taller than the dog) and to watch out for obstacles on the right side and beneath me as well. And of course, the dog has to do this all without being distracted by other dogs or animals, nature, traffic, sounds, etc.
Makiko is my eyes and has a huge part of my heart. I am free with her.