Reactions to OJ

This is a post for the third assistance dog carnival, hosted this time by
The Trouble Is…
The topic this time is reactions, and I wasn’t going to take part, simply because I couldn’t think of something to write about. Then I decided I’d write about a mixture of things, a mixture of ways people have reacted, both positively and negatively to O J.

The first unusual reaction that I noticed towardsO J was during our training in Cork in August 2007. I was sitting at a cafe with two of the other trainees, waiting for our turn to go for a walk with our trainer. A man came over to look at our dogs, two goldens and O J being the only black. He commented on how well behaved they were, and then said that he’d heard how the black ones didn’t have as good of a temperament as yellow or chocolate labs. My classmates and my trainer reassured me that I had absolutely nothing to worry about. If black dogs aren’t as friendly, O J doesn’t follow this stereotypical rule.

I guess about 95% of the people we meet react positively to O J. Many people comment on his handsome looks or his gentle personality. I’ve had people ask if they can pet him, which sometimes turns out to be more of a cuddle or a hug. Many people have offered to look after him when he retires. People who know us often say hello to him before me.
Some people tell me that they don’t like dogs but they like him. I have worked, and currently work with people who are afraid of dogs, and wouldn’t touch one in a million years, but they respect O J’s work as a guide dog, and my right to have him in our office.

Children’s reactions to a guide dog are always interesting. They regularly call him a “guard dog” or “blind dog”, ask loudly, “why is their a dog in the shop” to their parent’s embarrassment, and pet him without asking first. They are children, a guide dog in a harness is a novelty to them and they will never learn how to behave around one if they are not taught correctly. Instead of becoming frustrated at them, I use these interactions to educate them about blindness. If only teaching adults was so easy!

Adults are strange. Mostly they are genuinely interested in how a guide dog works, and they like to ask questions. Sometimes though, I meet the odd one who just doesn’t get it, and no amount of explaining will change things.
Like the people who call him over to them when they can see that he is guiding me. I usually tell O J to go “straight on” in a firm voice loud enough for them to hear, and hope they’ll get the message. I’m always happy when O J ignores them and walks on.
People who don’t get it, like the man who quickly dropped something in front of O J while we were waiting for a bus, and casually said, I just gave the dog a biscuit. When I explained why this was not acceptable, and he could see that I wasn’t pleased, he walked away and said nothing.
The strangest of all happened just after Christmas, when I went to look at furniture with my mum. The shop owner came up to chat, and proceeded to ask about O J, like he’d never seen him before, which he had. I suddenly felt O J’s front legs move off the ground like he was jumping up. He never does this, and definitely not in harness, so I was very surprised. I firmly corrected him, only to be told by my mum that the shop owner we’d been talking to had actually lifted O J’s front paws off the ground. He put him down and carried on talking as normal as if nothing had happened. Needless to say, I didn’t buy any furniture there, and don’t plan to in the future.

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11 thoughts on “Reactions to OJ

  1. Great post. I can relate to your frustration with people calling Gilbert over to them while he is guiding. I love my parents, but they have been guilty of this. Gilbert and I like to walk slow, which I think drives my parents crazy when they are with me, so my dad will run ahead on a sidewalk or sometimes on stairs and say "come on Gilbert! After calmly explaining that Gilbert needs to listen to me, and that this behavior could be potentially dangerous if Gilbert lurched forward before I had found a step or something and I fell, they have gotten a lot better. When they do slip up, they apologize, but it goes to show that the dog isn't the only one who needs to be trained!

  2. Jesus Jeniffer what a thing to hear while you were on class! What a bastard! I didn't know colour made a difference lol.And the dude lifting his paws? What a wanker! People are really just weird sometimes. Thankfully I haven't had anyone call ushi over or give her treats.Take care, and glad you're participating this time! I wasn't going to either but decided to. Xxx.

  3. Hi Jen, That's such a strange experience, I've never heard of someone actually picking up part of a guide dog… I've had people grab onto Cessna or Phoenix's harness handles in an effort to show me where to go, but I've never had them pick up a paw or anything. I think the weirdest experience I ever had was when a woman started petting Cessna and I asked her not to – we had just come home from training a day or two before. the woman just looked at me and said "well how do you know I'm petting her?" I explained that I could see her hand on Cessna's back and she thought for a moment and said "well, it doesn't matter anyways because I already pet her" and walked away. I just watched her leave in shock at the rudeness, I'd never had anyone do such a thing before. the woman at the popcorn counter I had been standing beside told me I was so nice and said she would have smacked the woman lol!

  4. haha its hard to be nice in front of stupid people who think they can do what they want because you can't see them. I always think of things I should have said after they've left.

  5. I know what you mean about adults-they are way worse than children, but I think it is because when we grow up, we have this sense of entitlement. So, when adults are told "no" they get all offended and angry. I can't believe that man picked him up! I also have never had this happen, but I guess you never know how people will react. 🙂

  6. I think the problem with "black" dogs is not with the dogs–it is in the perception people have of them. When out with my Future Leader Dog puppies (all black labs) I have had people jump back in fear, or move as far away from us as possible. Little did they know how friendly my black labs are! On the other hand, I always feel safe when out and about with them!

  7. Jen,Thank you for participating in the carnival!Sometimes there seems no end to the weirdness out there wrt assistance dogs. One I really don't like is when people give commands to my dogs, either just to see if the dog will comply or because they think they are somehow being helpful.I read a study several years ago that criminals are much less likely to break into a home with a dog living there (non surprise), and that they are least likely to do so if the dog is big and dark-colored.So, you and I are set in the dog-crime-deterrent department! -Sharon

  8. Sharon, that's interesting. Maybe I won't bother installing that security system in my new house after all! :)The worst was when another guide dog owner, who obviously should know better, decided to tell my dog to sit because he was distracted and wasn't paying attention to me. I have never wanted to hit someone so much in my life!!

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