I am often asked questions about the nature of my relationship with my guide dog. A topic we frequently touch on is the interdependence of it. I like to point this out to people, because no one is surprised that I depend on my guide dog. After all, she is my eyes, in a sense… but they usually don’t think about the fact that my dog depends on me, too.
My guide dog does have a lot of responsibility, especially for a dog. Prim protects me. She keeps me from walking into traffic, or stepping off the edge of a platform or stage. She navigates me smoothly around things in our path, and shows me when there is an obstacle like a parked car or construction barrier obstructing our way entirely. Prim provides for me. She helps me find landmarks like doors, steps, trashcans, and chairs, and is a source of ever-present laughter and comfort besides.
But like with any other dog, I have a great deal of responsibility as Prim’s partner and handler. I protect Prim. I make intelligent decisions about when to cross the street, and think about Prim’s physical and emotional safety in any given environment. There are some places I simply do not take my guide dog due to risk of injury or discomfort. Crowded bars and loud concerts are just two examples of places where paws could be too easily trampled and ears too easily overwhelmed. There have also been situations where I had to physically protect my guide dog when she was in danger of being attacked by another canine. I provide for Prim. I feed her, groom her, take her outside, take her to the vet for medical care, and of course have the enormous pleasure of being her primary playmate and cuddle buddy.
It’s a relationship of giving, not 50/50, but 100/100. Of course, we both fail, but the beauty is that not only do we both provide and protect, but we also persevere. There are days I am convinced I have a two-year-old child on a leash, and there are days that Prim is convinced she will starve to death because we get home late and I forgot to throw her dinner in my backpack, but I keep loving her even after she throws tantrums about not being able to eat the cat, and she keeps loving me after I feed her an hour or two later than our schedule dictates. In that way, it is undoubtedly a symbiosis of sorts, but not a symbiosis of chance, rather one of choice. Primie, I’m so glad I get to choose you.