As you’re reading this, I’m likely either on a ride or waiting in line at the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando. I’m here on vacation, but my guide dog Midge is not with me. I decided that it was best for both me and her that she stay home, even though she would be welcome at the theme park. With that in mind, I decided to write about how guide dog users decide when and when not to bring their guides with them. Obviously, every user will be different, but I think it’s important that as guide dog users, we remember that our dog’s feelings about the places we take them do need to be taken into consideration.
In the almost 6 years that I’ve had Midge, I’ve only left her for multiple days three times. On each occasion, she has been left with someone I trust and someone she trusts and knows. Here are the things I consider when deciding to leave my guide for an extended period of time.
- Will I be going somewhere where I plan to use my guide, or will I primarily use a sighted guide instead?
- Is the place I’m going likely to have other dogs there? (this is important for dogs that are easily distracted)
- Is the place I’m going likely to be crowded?
- Will bringing my guide hinder my ability to have the freedom to have fun?
- Is the place I’m going friendly to dogs?
- Will the place I’m going have good relieving areas?
Although I try to take my guide as many places as possible, I know that she and I wouldn’t be happy if I took her everywhere. As much as I dislike using a cane, I would rather use a cane than feel like I was putting my dog in an uncomfortable situation. I also believe that just like with children, sometimes we guide dog parents need a break.
What are your feelings about leaving a guide dog for an extended period of time? What do you consider when deciding if leaving your guide is the right decision?
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind