16 Jul 17

Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. Theodore Roosevelt

Autumn, a black and tan labrador shows off her expressive face and orange eyebrows for the camera.

My beautiful Autumn is a tremendous companion and we have become a wonderful team through our years of working together. One part of this teamwork involves learning to understand each other. As Autumn is rife with attitude I get many different looks from her incredibly expressive eyes. While my own sightless eyes aren’t able to fully appreciate her looks I’ve learned through the sharing of others,  to appreciate her diverse expressions and their meaning. In the interest of advocacy and education I often engage in dialog with Autumn, which is healthy connection for us and also serves to potentially share with strangers around us some insight to the inner workings of the dog guide team. As the summertime fun of July is upon us here are a few of the fun moments.

 

One of the most common looks I receive from my girl follows her performing her guiding duties well. After a particular bit of good work she will receive the tail wag inducing “Good Girl Autumn!” She is prideful for certain and she is also optimistically reward attentive. In these moments she’ll turn and look towards me with the hopeful expression intent on carrying her canine version of the Jedi mind powers (“that was worth a treat to your hard working and talenged dog guide Autumn”). I feel the turn of her head through the harness handle and will often comment “Oh you think that deserves a treat do you?” With a pouch full of Wellpet treats on my hip she transforms the plea to laser focus as she awaits her reward while onlookers confirm my suspicion and often begin side conversations in appreciation of her work and all the interactions involved in our team approach to independent travel in the world.

 

Speaking of Laser focus, we work plenty of normal routes where she must be attentive to the curbs, pavement cracks and potholes of normal life as well as pedestrians, sidewalk detritus and so much more. These are things in which she is well versed and does with good attention scaling up the intensity of her focus as the obstacles increase to require more focus from her guiding eyes. In fact, my most likely challenge comes when she is least challenged because it is then when distractions are most likely because she is, quite simply, bored. Yet when I ask her to guide me on the ridiculous footing found on the mountain trails in New Hampshire’s White Mountain Wilderness, an incredible transformation takes place. Suddenly there is no margin for error and every angle of her body, every side step, every bit of the route selection is deliberate and chosen with an intensity which speaks glowingly of her intelligence, her devotion and her passion for her work at the highest level. It is so intense I think a mere photo will not do it justice and so I include a video taken by Catherine Orza which really highlights the work and her eyes watching me and the trail to find the means to help us both navigate it successfully. When it gets too narrow for our smooth traversing together she pauses and watches for me to do my part in the teamwork and almost praises me for my success even as she patiently awaits my finding this role before she can lead forward to her next task.

 

 

So this is an excellent time for me to thank Guiding Eyes for the Blind who trained Autumn and Quinn before her. They provide these incredible Dog Guides for so many who can benefit from the freedom and independence they grant to the lives of those managing sight loss at various levels. In my case there is no sight in my eyes but she has beautiful, expressive and oh so talented guiding eyes which she happily shares with me on our journeys together at work and at play. Thank you Autumn girl!!

Randy and Autumn pose for a hug near Niagara falls

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