If I Could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with E

Well, it’s been a while, so I thought it was about time we added another list of dog names. Here are my ideas for a litter of E’s.

Ephie (Feminine): Greek, meaning well-spoken.

Ellory (Masculine): meaning island of elder trees.

Elowen (Feminine): meaning elm tree. I think this name is gorgeous and would love to use it for a child, but am absolutely positive it would be shot down by my husband hahaha. If you’re in that situation too, maybe you can use it for your pup instead.

Esther (Feminine): Meaning star. Biblical, a heroine of the Hebrew people, chosen for her beauty to be the new queen of Babylon. Rescued the Hebrew people from geniside at the hands of the king and his adviser.

Ezrah (Masculine): Biblical, apparently means helpful person, a prophet from the old testament.

Echo (Neutral): nice and short, a similar vibe for me to the name Shadow. 

Emerald (Feminine): could go either way really but it feels more feminine to me. Emmie could serve as a sweet nickname.

Elias (Masculine): Greek and Hebrew origins, meaning “Jehovah is God”.

Everist (Masculine): for a mountain of a dog. 

Everra (Feminine): my made up feminine version of Everist. Maybe it’s a real name somewhere? If not, maybe you could make it a real name by choosing it for your pup.

Estella (Feminine): derived from the Spanish word for star.

Eragon (Masculine): okay, here’s the thing. I wanted to include Aragorn, because I am an LOTR fan, but didn’t realize Aragorn is spelled with an A, not an E… so here’s the Christopher Paolini name equivalent that does start with an E.

Elf (Neutral): here’s another E word with fantasy vibes.

Elm (Feminine): because I like nature names.

Elite (Feminine): I met a dog once with this name and I thought it was a unique option.

Elysium (Neutral): from Greek mythology, heaven, paradise.

Ember (Feminine): as in a burning ember. 

Empyrean (Masculine): paradise. 

Epic (Neutral): My dog is Epic… no really, that’s his name.

Eulalia (Feminine): the war cry of the anthropomorphized hares in Brian Jacques’ Redwall, this word also refers to a flowering ornamental grass and a patron saint of Barcelona… careful about looking up her story though… it’s not for the faint of heart.

Do you have a pet or service animal with a name beginning with E? What would you add to this list?

Seasonal Shedding — Is There a Solution?

Labradors are many things… oversized lap dogs, excellent workers, enthusiastic playmates, and yes, constant shedders. There are a few dog breeds that don’t fit into that category, but often, being a dog owner means vacuuming up fur from the carpet and off the furniture, wiping it off your kitchen counters, dusting it from your shower ceiling (I still don’t know how fur gets up there), and wearing it on your clothing on a daily basis. I was told early on in my dog-ownership journey that brushing would help, but often I find that grooming doesn’t do much other than encourage the fur to loosen up so that even more of it can come out all over my newly washed floor.

Still, while labradors, and other breeds like them, shed year-round, their seasonal shedding during spring and autumn can be intense and thus harder to manage. So what’s the solution?

Spend More Time Outside 

Less time in the house equals less time for your dog to shed in the house. Getting out for more walks or allowing your dog some off lead time in the garden or at a dog park does make a difference in the amount of fur on your floor.

Clean Your House Regularly 

I know this sounds obvious, but when your dog is shedding their winter or summer coat, it really is not overkill to be vacuuming once or twice a day until the shedding settles a bit and isn’t so extreme. Speaking from experience, it REALLY IS worth vacuuming frequently, even if it sounds like a lot of work. It Is far quicker and easier to suck up fur that has accumulated over just a few hours, rather than a few days, and it will be less overwhelming in the long run.

Don’t Bother Sweeping!

Maybe I just have bad sweeping technique, but I’ve never found brooms to be effective at dealing with pet hair. If that’s been your experience, too, don’t bother! If you have hard floors, try Swiffer products, or just get a vacuum 

Get Yourself a Cordless Vacuum 

As I was saying… Seriously, this will change your life. Choose a quality, cordless vacuum that has shown to be effective for dog fur. We have the Dyson Animal

Popping the cordless vacuum off the charger and zooming around with it for a few minutes is SO MUCH EASIER than plugging the darn thing in, hoping the chord will reach wherever you need to go, realizing it won’t and having to unplug it and plug it back in somewhere else, getting tangled up in the chord while you are trying to get into an awkward corner, your dog getting tangled up in the chord while they try to chase your vacuum… you get my point.

If you would rather not do the vacuuming yourself, get a robot vacuum and let it do the work… just keep in mind that this can be a bad combination

if you have a puppy that is still toilet training. If you plan to use a robot vacuum, check your house before each use to make sure there aren’t any messes that would not be vacuum friendly. 

Bathe Your Dog 

I find that baths have a tendency to knock much more fur loose than brushing on its own, so when you notice the shedding is getting real, pop your pup under the hose for a good rub down or bring them to a professional groomer if you’ve got the cash. As always with bathing your pets, choose dog-friendly products, make sure the water is a comfortable temperature (particularly not too hot), and avoid doing it too frequently so as not to dry out their skin.

Care less 

I’m not joking. Your life will be simpler and easier if you just care a little less about seeing fur falling around the place.. It’s the price of having a dog that sheds, and there’s no point in getting up tight about it. Relax, enjoy your furry friend, accept that having a furry friend in the house means there will be fur there, and move on with your life.

Grooming Tools that (May) Help

As I’ve said, I’ve never found brushing particularly helpful in keeping the shedding at a minimum, but you may have a different experience. Here are some tools that could aid you in your quest. This list includes a slicker brush, nylon bristle brush, silicone massage tool, and brushes designed specifically to remove dead undercoat, such as the Furminator. The Furminator may prove especially useful during heavy shedding seasons, but be sure to read the instructions attached, as such tools are usually recommended for weekly or by-weekly use, rather than every day.

So, no, there’s no “solution” to seasonal shedding as far as I can tell. It will happen no matter what you do, but staying on top of house maintenance, spending more time outdoors, and trying a few grooming options can make a difference… and if all else fails, just care a little less. 🙂

If I could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with D

Welcome back for more dog names! This week, it’s the letter D.

Check out my list of C names here, or my list of A names if you’d like to start at the beginning.

Daiquiri (Feminine): who doesn’t like a good strawberry daiquiri when you can get one? And with this name, you would always have one on hand.

Dainty (Feminine): a delicate option for a prim pup.

Drifter (Masculine): the exact opposite thing for a male dog that likes to plow into things and take corners too tightly at too high speeds.

Dryad (Feminine): from Greek mythology, a spirit or nymph that inhabited a tree.

Dolan (Masculine): a second name in Ireland meaning dark, associated with an Irish high king from the second century.

Delila (Feminine): a beautiful one, from Hebrew meaning delicate 

Dapper (Masculine): a word you would use to describe your handsome man when he’s all dressed up in a suit, but also a cute name for a handsome doggy.

Dove (Feminine): as in the bird, associated with peace.

Dover (Masculine): a male option with similar sounds, but denoting a ferry port town in England, as well as several American towns.

Dekker (Masculine): I heard this one from a Guiding Eyes puppy raising page, and I liked it.

Dori (Feminine): just a cute one, and fairly popular for dogs already if you’re looking for something particularly wearable.

Dragon (Masculine): I’m not so sure about this one, but it’s easy to say and obviously brings up some powerful images. Do you think it could work?

Domovoy (Masculine): From Russian, meaning house lord. In Russian mythology, a domovoy was a benevolent household spirit that guarded the families with which they lived.

Doliver (Masculine): an English second name. I like it because it has the sound of Oliver, but the uniqueness of the D at the beginning.

Dittany (Feminine): a plant used in herbal medicine, also called the “burning bush”, as it’s blooms have a tendency to spontaneously combust.

Dorian (Neutral): a musical term referring to a scale often used in celtic traditional music.

Dulcimer (Neutral, but maybe masculine?): a box-like wooden instrument with strings stretched across it, played using hand-held hammers 

Dolce (Feminine, pronounced with a soft CH): meaning sweet in Italian 

Duende (Feminine): a word in Spanish that we don’t have an equivalent for in English. Connected to the excitement or emotional arrousal you feel at seeing or hearing something artistically beautiful.

Daphne (Feminine): “a small Eurasian shrub with sweet-scented flowers and, typically, evergreen leaves ” (New Oxford AmericanPrimie2017

 Dictionary). This was also 

Dutchus (Feminine): female equivalent of duke.

I’ve always had a personal affinity for D names, and I think that shows in the length of this list. I’d love to hear your ideas. Do you have a beloved dog in your life with a name starting with D?

Learn to Teach your Dog with a Click // Clicker Training 101

Maybe you’ve seen it on the shelf at the pet shop, or seen the word mentioned in puppy training books. The clicker is a small plastic box that emits a loud popping sound when pressed. It is a simple but powerful communication tool and a positive way to condition your dog to new behaviors or tasks. Sound crazy? Let me explain.

The Psychology Behind the Clicker 

The concept of the clicker is based on the psychological phenomenon known as “conditioning”, as discovered by Pavlov in his famous experiments with dogs during the early 20th century. He found that when he consistently paired food with the sound of a metronome, the dogs began to salivate, I.E. expect food at hearing the metronome alone. Clicker training makes use of this concept by teaching the dog to associate the sound of the clicker with a treat. This is your first step in introducing the training tool to your dog. 

What Kind of Food Rewards Should I Use?

Because clicker training is fast moving and based on repeated rewards for desired behaviors, you want something small, low calorie, and easy to gobble down in a second. You may choose to use pieces of your dog’s normal kibble, a brand of commercial training treats, or small bits of plain chicken. Whatever you choose, make sure to think about how much they will be taking in during each session and calculate that into their meals for the day to avoid weight gain.

Teaching Your Dog to Love the Clicker 

Be aware that some dogs may have sensitivity to the loud noise of the clicker at first. If you suspect this may be an issue for your pup, start off by simply taking out the clicker and feeding them when they see it. Once they seem excited when it comes out, progress to feeding them at the exact moment you press the clicker. The timing is very important here. Your dog needs to know that this sound always means a treat.

Connecting the Clicker with Desired Behaviors 

Once your dog understands that the clicker means something tasty, you can begin to use it as a marker for desired behaviors. The moment your dog hears the clicker, he will assume that whatever he is doing will result in an immediate reward. For example, if you would like to teach your dog to sit, the minute you observe your dog exhibiting this behavior, speak your chosen command, click and immediately feed. He will quickly learn that sitting in response to your cue is an exciting and beneficial thing to do.

*A word of warning though. It is very easy to accidentally reenforce negative behaviors if your clicker game is a little off. If you are slow on clicking when your dog sits, and instead click a few moments later when he has decided to jump up on you instead, he will learn that jumping is the thing that will get him a click and a treat. During training sessions, you must keep the clicker and food reward ready so that you can mark desired behaviors the instant they happen, not too early, and not too late. That said, if you are a few moments late in clicking and your dog is still doing the thing you would like him to do, that is perfectly fine. In fact, delayed clicking may even come in handy as a technique to teach sustained tasks, such as a down stay.

Short Sessions and Small Steps 

Training sessions can be demanding for both you and your dog. Try to keep them short (10 to 15 minutes) and consistent (once or a few times a day). Particularly when teaching more complex tasks, make use of a technique called “shaping” by rewarding small progressions toward whatever final behavior you are looking for. For instance, if you are working on the “stay” command, you might start by clicking and treating after a shorter period, and progress gradually to longer and longer spans of time. Or, if you are working on teaching your dog to pick items up off the floor, you might start by clicking and treating when they merely look at or sniff the object you want them to eventually retrieve.

Teaching the “Touch” Command with the Clicker 

So, you’ve got the basic theory down. Let’s put it into practice by teaching your dog a useful little command called “touch”. When you ask your dog to “touch”, he should eventually bop your closed fist or palm, depending on your preference, with his nose. This command is simple, but has three great uses.

1. Focus. If your dog is distracted by something and behaving poorly, you can use “touch” to get his attention quickly back on you.

2. Movement. It can be an incredibly easy and effective way to maneuver your dog without pulling the leash. Just put your hand where you want your dog, tell him touch, and he will be there in a flash if he knows there’s a click and treat coming. 

3. A fun game. Your dog might need to get some energy out on a rainy day. You can use the touch command for a fun challenge for your dog. Put your fist all sorts of different places for him to find and bop. Here you can start asking him for a few touches in a row and reward only after several successes.

Here are the steps 

1. Start your session in a low distraction environment with your clicker and treat pouch ready and available.

2. Put your touching hand (I use the right as I usually have my dog’s leash in my left hand) somewhere your dog can reach it. Wait until he investigates your hand by sniffing it. If he doesn’t do this right away, you can shape the behavior by first rewarding him when he looks at your hand, or put a treat in your hand to give him an incentive to come close and sniff. Don’t give the treat to him until you have marked the behavior with the clicker. Click and treat as soon as he makes contact with your hand.

3. Once he is consistently making any sort of contact with your hand using his nose, pair the behavior with the word “touch”. Click and treat when he responds appropriately.

4. Start to click and treat only for his more insistent contact. Ignore any less than passable “bops”, and wait to reward his best ones. Make sure that he is bringing his nose to your hand, and not the other way around.

5. Repeat this process until he is giving you the exact sort of bop you want… pretty enthusiastic, firm, but still with his nose, not teeth.

6. Practice refining this command by moving your hand to different locations on your body or around the room, and then progressing to higher distraction environments. Remember always to keep your dog on a lead or in an enclosed area outdoors unless you are certain that his recall is rock solid even with distractions present.

Et Voila!

You have learned to train your dog with a click. For more posts on dogs, look for the “related posts” header on this page, or click here.

If I Could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with “C”

If you’re a dog-lover like me, you might consider naming your canine pal to be a pretty weighty task. This is especially true if the pup in question will be a working partner, as well as a best friend. The following is my third post in a series dedicated to listing some of my favorite potential dog names. As a service dog handler myself, I’ve chosen names that I think are particularly suited to give to a working dog, taking the length, ease-of-pronunciation, meaning, and associations all into account. Check out my list of A names or B names for more ideas.

Dog Names Beginning with “C”

Cruise (Masculine): I like this one for a guide dog particularly because “cruising” is such a great way to describe what it feels like to walk freely with your guide. It is also clear, short, and distinct from most English commands that I can think of 

Callum (Masculine): Scottish derivative of “columba”, meaning dove

Clemintine (Feminine): these little citrus fruits are bursting with flavor. Good for a little girl with a lot of personality.

Conan (Masculine): this comes from an Irish word meaning little wolf, which seems appropriate. It is also the name of a U.S. special forces military dog who was awarded a medal of honor at the Whitehouse in 2019. Notably, Conan was named after TV personality Conan O’Brian.

Chloe (Feminine): I think this name is fairly widely-used for dogs already. It is a Greek name that means “green shoot”, and refers to Demeter, goddess of aggriculture and fertility. Appropriate for a dog with a youthful attitude.

Corin (Masculine): containing the Latin route for “heart”, this is the name of a prince from C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and his Boy.

Coco (Neutral): the delicious stuff we put in cakes.

Clodagh (Feminine): a popular name in Ireland associated with a river in County Waterford as well as a saint.

Chico (Masculine): meaning boy in Spanish. I just think it’s cute.

Ceili (Feminine, pronounced “Kay-Lee): a social event or step dance traditional in Scotland and Ireland. I attended a Ceili with my friends for my 16th birthday (I know, make fun of me all you want) and had a blast! Great memories associated with this word and I think it makes for a great name.

Cooper (Masculine): an English occupational name associated with those who made buckets and barrels 

Chapel (Masculine): this one could maybe go feminine too. Just draws to mind beautiful places with stained glass and I liked the sound of it.

Cherry (Feminine): as in the fruit. Might be a good one if your dog’s coat has a reddish hugh.

Cheer (Masculine): a similar one for a male, denoting happiness.

Chess (Masculine): as in the game. Good for a clever or somewhat mischievous dog.

Chesapeak (Neutral, Chessie for short): a similar sound, named for the bay on the east coast of the U.S. between Maryland and Virginia. 

Chaucer (Masculine): as in the English author, for a scholarly type.

Coral (Feminine): a lovely shade of orangey-pink, the tiny sea creatures that grow in reefs, and the mother from Finding Nemo.

Calypso (Feminine): from Greek mythology, meaning “concealing the knowledge”. A nymph who kept Odysseus prisoner on her island for 7 years.

Celtic (Masculine): beginning with a hard “C” sound, this refers to a cultural and linguistic group of the British isles. Use with caution if you plan to spend any time in the UK, though, as it is also a football (soccer) team and could get you into some trouble.

Cove (Neutral): a small inlet or bay in a larger body of water. Might be associated with peace and calm as a more sheltered place along a coastline.

Clue (Feminine): only thing with this one is you could never say “I have no clue” without lying 🙂

Castle (Masculine?): I just think this makes for a cool name

Carolina (Feminine): a region, but also a wild dog breed 

Chip (Masculine): reminds me of the little china cup from the Beauty and the Beast 

Camberra (Feminine): the name of my stuffed koala bear growing up, and the capital city of Australia.

Cornflower (Feminine): a European bloom associated with growing in aggricultural fields. Blue, white, or pink in color. Can be used medicinally for various ailments.

Do you have a dog with a name beginning with C? What would you add to this list?

See you next time for “D” names, and don’t forget to check out the “A” and “B” lists if you haven’t already.

If I Could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with “B”

This is my second post in a series dedicated to dog names. I have chosen names that I think would be suitable for service dogs, but they could be used for any furry friend in need of a title. Find my picks for “B” names below, or read my list of A names here.

Bryony (Feminine): a wild vine with greenish flowers. 

Brody (masculine): there seems to be some disagreement about this name’s origins, but it may be derived from an Irish or Scottish word meaning “muddy place”, or it may come from a Pictish word denoting kingship. Either way, I like it.

Bridey (feminine): exalted one (Irish), from Bridget. A nice one if you love the Brody sound but are looking for a girl’s name.

Breezy (feminine): makes me think of lovely summer days. Could be nice for a cheerful Labrador type.

Bear (masculine): I’m sure you’ve met a dog called bear in your lifetime… it’s a perfect description for the big, fluffy, huggable sort, or might give your little dog a bit more respectability. It’s worth noting with this one that “bear” might sound like “chair” or “stairs” if you are training a guide dog, so you may have to train other alternatives like find the “seat” or “steps”.

Balto (masculine): this was the name of a famous sled dog that led the way to deliver much-needed medicine to a town in Alaska during the early 20th century. A noble dog that deserves to be honored by other noble dogs carrying on his name. (some sources I read noted that his original name was Togo, so you could go with that one, too).

Bunny: this is a slightly cutesy name, which I generally prefer to avoid, but I make an exception here because I just think it’s so adorable!

Blue (neutral): a nice color and a nice name, and if you remember Blue’s Clues it could be a reference to a bit of childhood nostalgia, too.

bluebell (Feminine): a generally deep blue-violet, bell-shaped wildflower native to western Europe. These blooms are associated with faithfulness, humility, thankfulness, and abiding love. If you pick this name, just be careful not to pick her namesake. Old tails say that plucking a bluebell may induce the fairies to trick you into getting lost, and wander without rest forever. 

Brave (Neutral): if you want to bestow confidence and courage on your canine partner, this is a simple way to do it.

Barista (neutral): just be careful of how you talk to your dog in a cafe, in case the person behind the counter gets confused. I can think of a few cute nicknames for this one, like Barie, Ris, or Rista. 

Badger (Masculine): what can I say. I love naming dogs with other animal names! Makes me think of a dog with a fierce but steadfast character. This may be because of my being an avid Redwall fan as a child.

Blossom (Feminine): a gentle, sweet-sounding name for a gentle, sweet doggie.

Bliss (Feminine): much the same as the above, though a one-syllable option.

Beacon (Neutral): my guide dogs have been a light in the darkness more than once in my life.

Beowolf (Masculine): evoking the hero of the ancient Irish tail by this name. Definitely a strong one for a large, powerful dog. When he’s off duty and you need a cuddlier nickname, he could be called Wolfie.

Bishop (Masculine): the title of a clergyman in some Christian traditions who was responsible for overseeing multiple churches in one region. Carries the same sort of connotations for me as Abbott, from our previous list.

Blaze (Masculine): a good one for a dog with a fiery personality. Could also refer to coloring. A white stripe down the middle of a horse’s face is commonly referred to as a “blaze”.

Can you think of any B names to add to this list? Have you ever met a dog with one of these names? Let us know! See you next time for the “c” litter!

If I Could Name All the Guide Dog Puppies | A List of Names Beginning with “A”

I don’t know about you, but I find names incredibly interesting. The way humans assign sounds to things, and meanings to those sounds fascinates me. One particular area of interest for me is in naming guide and service dogs. Naming a service dog is quite important. It is the word you will use to refer to the animal that helps you on a daily basis. It should therefore be something not only that you like, but that is functional. That is to say, it needs to be a name that you can spit out quickly when your dog does something bold. At the same time, it needs to be respectable, as this dog will have to be honored as a professional in public places where dogs are not usually permitted. For that reason I tend to steer clear of names that are a bit too cutesy, like “Precious” or “Fluffy” or “Bubbles”.

Most of the time, service dog users don’t get to pick their dog’s names, so I haven’t gotten to do anything with my many name ideas. I thought I’d post them here as a resource for anyone who needs some inspiration.

Guide dog schools frequently name their puppies using one letter per litter, so I will follow that pattern here by posting lists alphabetically. Here’s twenty options for A names that I love for a litter of new service pups.

Aaida (feminine): the one who is helpful (French). A fitting name for a dog that will be helping you on a daily basis.

Artemis (feminine): the Greek hunter goddess. I think it’s a nice sounding name, and it can be shortened to Artie as a sweet nickname.

Ace (masculine): excellent, expert. 

Acorn (neutral): you’ll find in these lists that I have a soft spot for nature names. The drawback with this one is that the only nickname I can think of is “Corny”, which might not appeal to you.

Alaska (neutral): as in the state. Connotations may include mountains, sled dogs, polar bears, rifles, etc.

Arrow (masculine): as in, fly arrow, straight and true. Just sounds cool to me.

Archer (masculine): there is the arrow, and then there is the one who aims and shoots the arrow. 

Arwin (masculine, though neutral really I would think): friend of the people. If your dog is a lab, the only more accurate name would be friend of the food.

Aquila (neutral): Latin origins meaning eagle. Also Biblical, husband of Pricilla as recorded in the book of Acts.

Apphia (feminine): darling (Phrygian). Our service dogs always become our darlings.

Arbor (masculine): a shady garden alcove. Time with our dogs can be a haven of peace, and I think this name communicates that well.

Abbot (Masculine): the head of a monastery. A sweet A name for a young dog with an old soul.

Avonlea (feminine): the home of Anne, from Anne of Green Gables, set in Prince Edward Island. I have a friend with a dog by this name, and I always thought it was a bit of a mouthful for a working dog, but if you think you could handle it, it strikes me as a beautiful one.

Aladdin (Masculine): as in the character from the Disney movie. Originally middle-eastern meaning noble of faith. I don’t particularly like the character Aladdin but I do think the name is cute for a dog and has a bit of gravitas given the meaning.

Arielle (female): continuing with the Disney theme.

Aerwyna (Feminine): meaning friend of the sea. Perfect for a dog who loves water. Could go with Wynnie for short.

Aslan (Masculine): the lion from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. Quite a strong name.

Annabell (Feminine): favored grace. Guide dogs in particular help their people move gracefully throughout the world, and every service dog is a gracious gift from God. A lovely name and a fitting meaning.

Azure (neutral): a bright shade of blue. Almost sounds like “Asher” when spoken quickly, but is a slightly more unique choice.

Apollo (Masculine): the Greek god associated with music, poetry, archery, and medicine. Brother of Artemis. Are you sensing a theme or two here?

What do you think? Could you see yourself using any of these names? What would your A list be?

See you next time for the B litter!

April Showers

This is a story I wrote down a year ago that I never got the chance to post. I figured since it’s April again, it would be an appropriate springy thing to share.

 

I can’t drive, and I don’t have buckets of money to pay for Lyfts everywhere I go, so generally whatever the weather is, my guide dog and I are out in it, getting where we need to go.  That is why, one April Saturday, Prim and I ventured out into the pouring rain to head to a friend’s recital at my old university.  Neither of us were excessively pleased about the damp; I shivered, and Prim did her best to avoid puddles as we set out on the mile walk.

We were standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change.  I was listening to the traffic on my right to know when it was safe to cross when, suddenly, a car approached quickly from my left and a massive wave of water struck us.  I squeaked and leapt back, shocked by the cold and completely soaked waist down.  Prim shook it off and we stepped back up to the curb to wait once more.

Not thirty seconds later, a truck came barreling through the intersection.  Before I could react, I was engulfed from head to toe in a six foot high tsunami of street water.  The frigid liquid left me breathless, and poor Prim was completely disgruntled.  I laughed ruefully and turned to go home, blinking away the water dripping into my eyes.  There was absolutely no way I could walk into a recital looking like I’d just fallen into a pool.

“Ma’am!” a voice called from a car at the gas station behind me.  I paused, glancing in his direction.

“Ma’am do you need help? I have a towel.” He approached and pushed a towel into my hands.

“Thank you.” I said, surprised.  I took the towel and mopped my face.  I was just going to believe it was a clean towel, and not something this friendly samaritan had just used to clean greasy hands after working on his engine or something.  I vainly tried to dry my clothes with the towel too, but only semi-successfully.  I was at least grateful to have dry face and arms.  As per my request, the man kindly helped me across the street.  I’ve probably asked someone to do that a grand total of two or three times in my life.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t normally need help to cross the street, dog or no dog, but I was not in the mood to be hit by yet a third surge of rainwater.

Upon reaching the other side of the street, I expressed my appreciation to my benefactor, then was promptly dragged by my indignant dog to the nearest door.  I was planning on walking the rest of the way to the recital, but clearly Prim had other ideas, and she wasn’t afraid to tell me.  She absolutely refused to leave the shelter of the overhang in front of the business.  I was trying to reason with her when another voice called from a car in the street.

“Shea!”

It was a friend from college.  He offered a ride to our destination, and Prim and I gladly accepted.  We arrived just in time for the performance.  I sat through the whole thing shaking in my soaked clothes, and winced at the strong smell of wet dog radiating from my poor unhappy pup, but man am I glad we made it, and honestly, it was kind of an exhilarating experience.  Who says Nashville doesn’t have a good waterpark?

A Safety-Conscious Canine

A little story I wrote for a blog I contributed to. The blog is no longer running so I decided to republish it here. Enjoy.

Prim has consistently been rather stubborn about going to church. When I asked my trainer about it, she suggested that perhaps Prim simply wasn’t religious. I laughed at that, but it wasn’t a sufficient explanation, especially when I realized that Prim was somewhat unwilling to walk the route from church, as well as to church. Today I figured out why. 

Our walk to church includes traversing several sets of steps, the top level of a parking garage, and a long, side-walkless driveway, one that is consistently populated by church-goers’ vehicles leaving and entering our parking lot. Because there is no sidewalk, we are forced to stick as close as we can to the edge of the road. Prim is trained to do this. It’s a technique called “shore-lining”, but she is still not satisfied. She often stops in the parking lot or veers to the grass when she sees an idoling car, as I think she recognizes it as a threat. Well, one day on our way out of church, Prim decided to take matters into her own paws. Despite my direction to walk straight, across the parking lot and along the driveway, Prim insisted upon turning left. Curious, I trusted her and followed.

“Let’s go home.” 

I said, hopefully, even though I didn’t actually know whether we could get back to our appartment this way. She led me along a brief strip of parkinglot, then pulled me strongly to the right to step onto a sidewalk. I couldn’t help but laugh. We stuck to the sidewalk, made a right, then walked another good distance, until Prim pulled right again and I recognized the slant of our leasing office parking lot beneath my feet, and a minute later reached out to feel the gate that would take us into our complex. 

We had never walked that route before, but somehow Prim knew we could get home that way, and knew it was safer with side walks. She won’t let us walk any other way now. I love my safety conscious canine.

The Symbiosis of the Guide Dog Team

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.