Have you ever thought that man’s best friend for people without disabilities is able to be more than just a friend who resolves the feeling lonely but he is able to be a companion and play an essential role in the living of some people? Nowadays, people try to find a way, tool, or technology for helping a person with a disability to have the convenience in their daily life such as a wheelchair or a guide dog. A guide dog is an alternative way of helping people with disabilities to have an easier life and also can be a companion who can always go to every place with those people.
History about guide dog
We might hear about a guide dog but do you curious when and why is exactly happen. People might think that a guide dog seems like a modern idea but actually, it started in 1780 at Les Quinze-Vigts where is a hospital for the blind in Paris, France. In 1819, Johann Wilhelm Klein, the founder of the Institute for the Education of the Blind in Vienna, made significant progress in the field which he included the idea of guide dogs in his book on education for the blind. He even went so far as to include details about his method for training these dogs. During World War I, there was some military that got injured from the gas poison and causes those soldieries to lose their visibility but Gerhard Stalling, who was a German doctor, got the idea to solve this problem and help those militaries by training a dog to become a guide dog. He had spread this training and open the world’s first guide dog school in Oldenburg, Germany. The school grew and many new branches opened across Germany and the different branches were able to train up to 600 dogs each year. Those dogs do not only help the soldiery who got injured but also help the blind across the world. However, when the time fly the amount of the dog had decrease which affects some venture that had to shut down. Fortunately, the school at Potsdam is still proving to be highly successful. After that, they were focused in Europe, with ready-to-serve dogs being shipped for work abroad until a wealthy American woman by the name of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who was living in Switzerland, training dogs for the army, police, and customer service, heard about it and interested in school at Potsdam. She decided to visit the school and learn how to train the dog there for several months. Then she got impressed with it and she chooses to write an article. When her article was published it able to grab attention from a blind American man named Morris Frank. He was obsessed with it and contact her because he wanted to bring the guide dog to America. After Dorothy got a call from him she wants Morris to flew to Switzerland to having a class with her dog named Buddy to learn how to work with him. Thenceforth, they are going to the United States of America together to introduce a guide dog and want to be accepted in society about this new thing. Then Dorothy has an idea to open her own training school in Vevey, Switzerland called The Seeing Eye, At the same time there is also a new training school opened in Italy, and it was successful that is why she opened her own secondary school in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1930, two British women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, heard about The Seeing Eye and contacted Dorothy, who sent over one of her trainers. In 1931, the first four British guide dogs completed their training and three years later The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded in the UK. Afterward, there is plenty of new training school, organization, and association about the guide dog across the world.
How to train guide dog
A dog that ages around twelve to fifteen months old is able to train to be a guide dog. They will go to the leader dog campus to get formal dog training. There are 5 steps as follows.
In the first step, the dog will be spent on the Leader Dog campus. The instructors will begin to build and strengthen relationships with their dogs teaching loose leash walking, settling calmly, and obedience. This will help the dogs recognize the skills they have learned because they have to transfer to a new handler. Moreover, the dog will also learn to stop at curbs before crossing a street. In this step, the instructors will evaluate the ability and personality of their dog.
Second step will train about how to stopping at curbs, traveling in a straight line, avoiding obstacles, making turns, and stopping for traffic. The instructors will find the home base when they are out training on a local street and the instructor will find the quiet neighborhoods and the busier Main Street area. They will start working in group obedience classes to make sure the dogs are responding to the instructors on an individual basis. To increase the complexity of the training, instructors add distractions to the group classes by doing the exam in which the instructor is blindfolded and the dog must take them on a route that they have been trained while demonstrating the skills they’ve learned. However, there are still have other people who follow them to make sure everyone is safe.
For third step, they will learn country travel and work in larger urban areas. They will learn to walk along the left side of the road in areas where there are no sidewalks. Leader Dogs must recognize when they’re passing under an obstacle that their handler will run into. The instructors work with the dogs to teach them intelligent disobedience: if the instructor commands the dog to move forward but there’s a hazard such as a vehicle in the way, the dog must deliberately disobey the command.
This is the most difficult one. The dogs must master complex situations, multiple moving cars, busy streets and difficult obstacles to be ready to be matched with a client. During the last week of advanced training, they come back to quiet residential areas in preparation for where they will begin working with their new “forever person.” Before the dogs will ready to go with the client they will receive another health exam and complete a second blindfold exam with their instructors.
This is the stage that the real work has begun. The client will spend their time to study. First, the instructor will train with the client by pretending to be a dog by holding. Also, the instructor will evaluate the client that which dog is suite the client the most. After that, the dog will meet with the new handler in a private room. Then they will take the first walk together as a practice until they do not need an instructor. Over the next few weeks, the instructors, clients, and dogs will practice working in quiet residential areas and progress to busier, more distracting environments. The instructor will talk to each client about their individual goals and try to practice those goals during practice to make them get used to it. In the last step, the client will go home with the leader dog and try to do practice daily routine to get used to a new environment.
How to get guide dog
There is plenty of websites to look through the way to get a dog but this is the common step to get a guide dog.
- Find the organization that nearest to your home.
- Look up or search the website of the organization that you choose
- Fill out the application
- Some organizations might be sent someone to interview you to make sure you function well enough and are competent to handle one of their dogs.
- Waiting for the result because some organization also have a waiting list that might cause a lot of time to wait so it might better if you also find other organization
The website does not only include the application to get a leader dog but also include the ways to help their organization such as donate and be a volunteer. Sometimes they do the campaign to earn money to support their organization or having a gift shop. In addition, the volunteer who wants to help their organization not only adults but also youth volunteer to do some activity to help an organization such as doing colorful collars. Check it out for more detail.
Example of the website
Guide dog in Thailand
In Thailand, there are only a few case about the blind and guide dog. Last year, there is one person and her leader dog became viral who is name Kirin Techawongtham, or Sai, and her dog Luther. She lost her sight since 13 years old. She had been through a lot but she can get through that because firstly is her family secondly is Luther who helps her and always by her side to got graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Psychology at Hendrix College in the United States. She obtained a guide dog last 3 years ago from the US foundation called Guiding Eyes for the Blind and then she came back to Thailand. She started the Facebook page named My name is Luther to spread awareness about guide dogs in Thailand she said because Thai society has no idea what guide dog is.
The difficulty of guide dog
Some society has no idea about the guide dog but some already know but still have difficulty for the guide dog
- In some society that has no idea about guide dog and when people see the dog they try to get the dog’s attention by making a noise which is the thing that should not do because it might cause harm to the blind and the leader dog
- Some public places do not allow the guide dog to get in even the blind try to say that he is not a pet but he is a guide dog
- Some transportation is not allowed guide dog to get in such as taxi
- Stray dogs or the normal dog that might attract the guide dog
In terms of difficulty of a guide dog in Thailand, back then public places still not allow guide dogs to get in but recently Guide dogs are welcome in metro Bangkok’s parks, medical facilities, government buildings, and shopping centers because of Sai’s case and her campaign.
The relationship between the blind and guide dog
Nowadays the media barely talk about those people who are disabled and their guide dog. There are have a website for the guide dog organization or article about them but the media especially new media hardly mention it. This is the example that some YouTube have content about the blind and the guide dog.
As you can see from the video, a dog for the blind is not just a tool to make people with disabilities have an easier life or just a pet or a friend but he has become one part of their physical and become their buddy. He will go everywhere you go and went through a hard time together with the blind. Also, he will be the one who will travel and go through the adventure with you. Moreover, they still need to learn or get to know each other more and get a good relationship that no one can tear it apart then become a true and loyal friend. Those will be the indissoluble link between the blind and a guide dog.