assistance dog blog carnival is being hosted by
I rarely post in these carnival type things, but the theme of “opportunity” was something I could relate to straight away, so I thought I’d write about the many opportunities that having a guide dog has given me.
Don’t forget to check out L’s blog soon to read all the blog posts.
When you think about guide dogs and how they help their owners, independence is the obvious thing that comes to mind. It’s impossible to describe the freedom that having a dog gives, unless you’ve actually had one. Many blind and visually impaired people never own a dog and manage perfectly fine with their cane. I knew from a young age that I was never going to be one of those people. I understand that I need to use it at times, but when I have to use it, I’m like a different person trying to find my way around. I walk much slower, am less confident, and the thought of moving from one place to another stresses me out. I need to point out that this is a personal weakness and definitely not the case for every cane user. Having O.J is like walking with a sighted person, since he guides me around obstacles, instead of me having to come into contact with them and find my way around them. I grew up among sighted family and friends, so this has always felt more natural. Going for walks is relaxing now, so as well as going to necessary places, O.J and I go for leisurely walks along with my pet dog, just for the enjoyment of it. Of course the exercise is another bonus.
If you are a confident person, you’ll automatically become more positive, therefore discovering and benefiting from more opportunities that come your way. I have been working since 2007, as well as doing voluntary work. It might sound strange to thank my dog for this, but I know having him with me has given me more confidence. Last week my contract in work finished, and I’ll have one or two days of work a week now if I’m lucky. I’m not too worried about it because O.J will keep me in a routine, and I know that when something new comes up, I can learn new routes and take new opportunities if I have him with me.
Owning a guide dog provides a constant opportunity to meet people on a daily basis, since everyone wants to ask questions about the dog. You’ll be tired saying the same things over and over again, but wouldn’t it be worse if people were afraid to start a conversation with you just because you are blind? I think when people see the dog, they are interested in him and overcome their shyness because they want to ask questions.
O.J has given me the opportunity to meet other guide dog owners, whether through training at the beginning, fundraising or talking online. This has led to me meeting some new friends and my boyfriend, and I know that we wouldn’t have all met if we didn’t have dogs.
Travel is another thing that I find much easier with a guide dog. Before I had O.J, I did go places, and often flew to England to visit my cousin. Now when I travel, I’m much more relaxed, and apart from bringing a few extra things for the dog and making sure the place I’m staying in has grass nearby, I don’t worry about where I’m going much. I don’t know my way around many of the places that I travel too, but people are inclined to approach me quicker and offer help when they see the dog.
I suppose if I was trying to summerise what having O.J means to me, I’d say that he gives me the opportunity to live a normal life. I hate using the word “normal”, but it’s the only one I can think of. A guide dog has given me the opportunity to live independently like my other family members and friends, and I can do lots of the same things they can do, without having to depend on them. Simple things like walking to visit people, instead of waiting for someone to come and get me, and being able to watch my nephews and take them places mean a lot to me. When I walk with O.J, it’s obvious that I am blind, and he stands out a lot. However, when he’s not with me, there are many situations where I feel much more disabled and less capable.
For me, having a guide dog provides a lot more opportunities than basic mobility and independence.