Nightmarish Guide Dog Stories

Some really weird and horrible stories are exchanged within the guide dog handler community.  I laughed at the “my dog ate…” stories at a massage workshop (T-Touch) last year.  On the surface, it seems benignly humourous to hear of a lab-run-amok in the kitchen. One ate half a chocolate birthday cake. The dainty, black bitch scarfed down 8 blueberry muffins (low fat), and one day, the Golden retriever retrieved two steaks marinating on a countertop while the handler and blind boyfriend were indisposed.  My girl, Opal fancies a dish of Lucy’s cat food once in a while,  usually as a signal that she is bored and wants me to know it.  She also demolished a CNIB Daisy disc and case once.  That, I rationalize as having been mistaken for a toy.  After all, they come in bright, yellow plastic cases. I had flung it across the room onto a chair as we entered the house.  I like to think that she thought it was  a square fizzbee.  In reality, this opportunistic scavenging done by Guide dogs, is not funny at all.  It can make them ill or worse.  I’ve already mentioned in a past blog, the hazzard of medications and inhalers (puffers), if accessible by your dog.  If you take any type of medication, including over-the-counter types of aspirin,  vitamins or supliments, here is what you should do.  Keep them in a drawer, perhaps a bedroom chest drawer.  When removing a tablet or capsule out of a bottle, do it over the open drawer.  If you drop you pill, it will fall into the drawer, and not onto the floor where you may lose it, and your animals might find it.  Bring your water to your drawer to take the pill, so that the pill never travels away from the area above the open drawer.  This is a good idea if you have ANY animals or kids.  By the way,  grapes, raisins and chocolate are toxic for dogs (and cats).  Some common houseplants and outdoor shrubs (like ivy) are poisonous too.   I had a cup of tea with a friend the other day. Her son has a Guide dog. Sadly, his last dog had a STROKE and died within two days. A seemingly healthy animal just keeled over. The young man was devestated.  This was only the beginning of horrible stories I was to hear that day.  My friend also asked if I ride the escalator with Opal.  I replied that I do, and that she loves it.  She told me that one day, she rescued a friend’s guide dog whose TOENAILS had become wedged in the little grooves on the escalator step!  THEN she asked if I had heard what happened to Mr. O’s Guide dog.  I said no. My jaw fell open when I heard that Mr. O. had gone out for a few hours with a friend. He did not bring his guide dog. (it’s a good idea to leave them home once in a while, otherwise, they begin to believe they are indispensible and it is too much pressure on them). He had left his dog in the bedroom for the few hours that he planned to be away.  Aparently, the dog had severe separation anxiety, because he had CHEWED UP the MATTRESS, SUFFOCATED and DIED.  My friend, Richard plays in a barbershop chorus in Toronto.  At a new rehearsal location,  his dog was unable to see him from where he was lying.  He had been leashed to a table. The dog ATE A CHUNK OF THE LEASH, to free himself. The leather bits caused him to have stomach upset.  He’s lucky to have ‘passed’ it. Bowel obstruction is very common. It can mean that your dog will be in pain,  and begin to vomit.  It might require expensive surgery, or even die. Be very cautious and attentive to what your dog picks up. Learn his/her tendancies and peculiarities. For some, it is socks or rags.  My sister’s yellow lab, Buddy, required TWO surgeries for obstructions in his lifetime.  Once, they found a peach pit stuck in his gut, another time, it was a small piece of corn cob.  He had grabbed and eaten these while on a walk.  People tend to throw all manner of garbage out by the side of the road, in the mistaken belief that if it is compostable, it is harmless.  One of the most upsetting stories was about a Guide dog who ‘refused’ to work for its handler.   I had unfortunately, heard this through the grapevine, just after I had moved to our new digs.  The Guide dog who ‘refused’ to work, was ‘taken away’.  I believe he was retired at age five.   His handler was devastated and agonized about training with a new guide dog for a long while.  When Opal and I moved to a new apartment, only one of our routes was new and different.  I was stressed out during this period, so naturally, she was too.  For the first two or three weeks, when we got to this certain street, she would slow to a crawl.  A five minute walk turned into a twenty minute nail-biter.  She was obviously nervous, anxious, and worried about this stretch of road.  I don’t know if it was the surrounding view (elevated) or a smell or something else.  We had no other choices for getting places It is the road that leads to all bus stops and all of our other routes.  My mind filled with thoughts of losing her, if she ‘refused’. I could not imagine life without her.   One morning, she was creeping inch by inch on the pavement as I shuffled my feet, trying to keep myself moving.   This was it.  I  knelt down by her ear and said. “Opal, I know your upset. But mum needs to go to the store. There’s a good girl. Let’s go”. With a pat on the head, and some strength in my voice, we were underway. I EXPECTED her to work, and she did.  My intention is not sensationalism in recounting these nightmarish Guide dog tales, but to point out the potentially dangerous environment we create for our animals in our everyday life. By careful scrutiny of our environment, we can minimize the hazards and maximize the safe and healthy lives of our dogs.  I  would suggest, that ’emotionally’-related conditions, such as separation anxiety should be nipped in the bud early. I’m not a big fan of pharma-treatments, like doggie ‘prozac’ etc. for conditions that have an alternate solution. There is no good reason to drug a dog for a problem that can be resolved with a  patient and consistent response.

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