Teachers in Mayville, Wisconsin had read my children’s book Hanni and Beth: Safe &Sound aloud to their students before I arrived there last week, so when I showed up without Hanni, the star of that book, a few of the kids were – quite reasonably– disappointed.
Hmm. Might be good to start my presentation with an explanation. Hanni had retired from guide work, I told them. She lives with friends, she plays in the forest preserve a lot, and she just had a birthday. “Hanni is 15 years old now,” I said. After explaining what dog years are, I asked them to multiply 15 X 7. They were amazed.
From there I described how frightened my next dog Harper became after he heroically saved us from getting hit in Chicago traffic. “He saved us from getting killed,” I said. And for that, he deserved an early retirement.” I sensed them nodding in agreement.
I told them how another pair of friends took Harper in, and I shared stories of how happy Harper is now in a quiet suburb with a big back yard to play in.
Then I introduced them to the dog sitting calmly at my feet. When Whitney heard her name, she sprung up, flipped over and kicked her legs, hoping for a belly rub. The kids laughed and clapped,overwhelmingly approving of this silly new dog.
While Whitney and the kids started settling down, a hand shot up with a question. “How come you didn’t bring those other dogs with you then, too?” The questions went on from there. Some examples:
- How did you get blind?
- How do you drive?
- How did you get here?
- How does it feel to be blind?
- Do you ever get tired of the color black?
- How do you write books if you can’t see the paper?
- Does your dog ever make a mistake?
- How do you open a door?
- How can you use a key?
- How do you know what year and month and day and time it is?
- Why do you keep your eyes open if you can’t see?
- How can you sit on chairs and not fall off?
Whitney and I had a ball in Wisconsin last week –the temperature was below zero, but the people we met were so warm we hardly noticed. The staff at the Radisson in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin took turns taking Whitney outside for me whenever she needed to “empty.” The thoughtful teacher who picked us up at the hotel to drive us to school had a cup of hot coffee waiting for me in her warm car, and the Mayville students were bright and curious and thoughtful – one girl had painstakingly glued beads onto a sheet the night before to create a Braille note I could read on my own. It all warmed my heart.