Friday, February 5, 2016

Following our Lead

Thursday, Chris took Dylan to St John Fisher School in Palos Verdes.  There she met with their 5th grade kids to talk about Guide Dogs of America and the process our dogs go through.  The good news for Chris, these kids were reading about guide dogs and were about half way through "Follow My Leader".  A book by James B. Garfield recounting how an eleven year old looses his sight from a fire cracker accident and his adjustment of living blind and learning to work with a guide dog.  As eleven year old 5th graders, this book had special meaning for them.

Regardless if the person is blind at birth or later in life, the recipient of a guide dog has quite an adjustment to make.  At GDA, they spend a month with their dogs.  This is after the dogs go through a year of formal training and the blind person learns to walk with a cane.  There are dorms set up on campus in Slymar to learn how the dog responds to them and how the people respond to the dogs.  It has to be a perfect match or the dogs are matched up with another person.  Or if it's a problem with the dog, say an attention issue or health reasons, the dog is careered changed.

To set up an example as blind person, one of the students was given a puzzle to put together.  Sighted, he took about 7 seconds.  Blindfolded, in those same seven-seconds, he couldn't put one piece of the puzzle together.   In another example, the blindfolded kids were given paper money.  How can you tell the denomination of paper money?  They're all the same size!  A blind person folds their money a certain way to help them know the difference between a $20 and a $10 bill.  Now a guide dog wouldn't help here, but the adjustment needed was not lost on the kids as they saw how difficult it is to be without sight.

Putting the puzzle together blindfolded was not easy.

Dylan was accompanied by Bruno, a one year old Black Lab puppy in training.  Any day you can spend some time with a puppy and learn something too, is a good day.  Our hope is one day, they will volunteer to be a puppy raiser for GDA...teaching how to "Follow My Leader".

The 5th Grade Class at St. John Fisher School with Bruno and Dylan

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