I have known a few guide dog teams personally, and have always been struck by the devotion they feel toward each other. The human practically radiates protectiveness and trust, while the dog gives the impression that it would do literally anything for its companion. Even on “bad days”, they seem so endearingly optimistic. Calling it cute would be cheapening it. It’s pretty inspirational, though, and I never throw that word around.
As we should all know by now, I have no interest in getting a dog myself. Much like a woman who does not want children, I have been hassled about this decision for years. And, while I can appreciate the bond between dogs and their handlers, I don’t feel that tug in my chest that says “I want”. I can admire it, but I can’t make myself desire it.
As you can imagine, I find it difficult to relate to guide dog handlers. I give no more thought to my cane than I would to the shoes I use to walk or the jacket that keeps me warn. I’m not used to considering my travel aid an actual companion. When I get home I fold my cane and stick it in a corner. Guide dog handlers are always interacting with their charges in some way, even if it’s peripheral. Like those with children, guide dog handlers are often expecting me to relate to experiences I won’t ever have … and it gets hard after awhile. I do know some very considerate handlers who only give me as much information as I ask for. Some, however, seem to lack that social filter which says, “That’s enough”.
So, like many people who don’t want dogs, I am subject to everyone else’s constant talk (well, mostly posts) about their guide dogs. You know how there are certain parents intent on documenting every single move their children make? It’s like that … only somehow worse. I can’t put my finger on why, but the myriad cutesy posts about the fact that Spot has managed to walk down one whole block successfully drive me insane. I don’t mind the odd congratulatory post—dogs can bring their handlers through some terrifying conditions—but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. I don’t need to know that your dog is currently asleep under your desk. I don’t really care if your dog was behaving particularly well in harness today. I am so sick of reading about how much your doggie loves his or her treats, or ball, or squeaky toy, etc. etc.
I probably sound very grumpy and intolerant, and maybe I am. But here’s the really infuriating bit: there are certain handlers intent upon glorifying their bond with their guides to the point where you’d think they were superheroes just waiting to save the world. These people are the type who mingle their signatures with their guides’ names. They write lengthy blog posts from their dogs’ perspective. They troll forums about “guide dog vs. cane” debates, and interrupt diplomatic discussion by spouting things like “Don’t you dare devalue the bond!” and “Once you have a dog you will experience true independence and fulfillment!” and so on. They are few, but they’re not quite far between enough for my liking.
Go ahead: take photos of your guide dog. Wax poetic about the accomplishments you and your dog have managed today. Painstakingly document every single step of the training process, if you really want to. Just please…don’t be offended if I’m not all that interested. I’m happy for you, I really am; but, like overenthusiastic parents who assume I want to know every detail about their kids, the goop you occasionally ask me to process can be a little hard to slog through at times. Please don’t be offended if I say “I’m really not interested”. It’s honest, not malicious. We all have the right to filter the content we consume, since there is so much of it. Please let me filter mine.
Author’s note: Before you ask, this post is *not* directed at anyone in particular. Please don’t come to me protesting that you don’t do stuff like this; I’m probably not talking about you.
As a guide dog handler, I honestly couldn’t agree more. Sure, if Jenny is doing something particularly adorable/quirky, I might post it on Twitter, and speak with other guide dog handlers a great deal, especially if we’re hitting a tough spot. I have never once been made to feel that you disrespect the partnership that my guide and I share, and I am aware of the fact that unless something is especially grueling, heroic, of adorable beyond words, you aren’t interested. You know what? I’m not offended! 🙂
Very refreshing post! Couldn’t agree more, and as I don’t want either a guide dog or children, I find the observation of the analogy between the goop from both the over-enthusiastic guide dog handlers and parents especially poignant.
haha. I definitely do write blog posts in my dog’s perspective, but it’s mostly that I find them fun and creative to write more than anything else. Writing in another person’s voice helps me get over my writer’s block/extreme perfectionism… also, I think documenting the training process is a very useful thing for both the handler himself and prospective handlers. I don’t think they are necessarily doing it out of their insane love for the experience and their dog either… A lot of people use writing to help them process and reflect. I definitely wouldn’t do it on my Facebook though.
Anyway, I see what you are saying. It doesn’t really bother me, but I could see why it might bother someone. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
I think that, like with parents, this mostly bugs people without guide dogs for the most part, though some handlers definitely do get annoyed with the more extreme behaviour as well. I also totally understand why people do it and that it can be helpful. I’m more saying that I don’t want to be forced/expected to interact with that information. I’m happy for them, but I don’t want to spend hours reading the stuff, either.