Time out for Seeing Eye dogs

November 21, 2015 • Posted in blindness, careers/jobs for people who are blind, Seeing Eye dogs, technology for people who are blind, Uncategorized, visiting schools, Whitney, writing, Writing for Children by
That's Ray mugging for the camera.

That’s Ray mugging for the camera.

Realizing I wouldn’t be able to see when his schoolfriends raised their hands to ask questions, my six-year-old great nephew Ray volunteered to help me call on kids in all three of the first-grade classes we visited at his school yesterday. All of the first-graders at Westmore Elementary had read Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound before Whitney and I arrived, and that meant they had time to come up with some pretty thoughtful questions. Examples:

  • What kind of dog food does your dog eat?
  • How can your write a book if you can’t see?
  • How do you drive when you’re blind?
  • Can you get that thing on her back off of her by yourself?
  • What if you’re with your dog and you bump into something?
  • When your dog isn’t there with you, how can you see?
  • What does the safety pin do? (This after I’d said I put a safety pin on the tag inside anything I wear that is black)
  • What happens if your dog gets distracted?

Whitney was as spirited as the students we were visiting, so we answered that last question with actions rather than words. After she flipped to her back (with her harness on) to beg the kids for a belly rub, she popped up to lick a first-grader in the front row. Time for her seven-step obedience ritual:

  1. “Whitney, sit!” She sat.
  2. “Whitney, down!” I pointed to the ground, and even though she uttered a huge groan while she did it, she managed to lie down.
  3. “Whitney, sit!” She popped back up.
  4. “Whitney, heel!” I held her leash, walked four steps forward while she walked along at my side.
  5. “Whitney, sit!” She sat.
  6. “Whitney, rest.” I stood in front of her, put my palm up in front of her nose for a second, walked backwards away from her, and she didn’t make a move.
  7. “Good girl, Whitney!” That’s what I said when I returned to her side.

When the obedience routine was over, one first-grader exclaimed, “It’s like a time out!” We had a ball at Westmore School, and as I write this post, Whitney is enjoying a real time out: she’s fast asleep under my desk.

Cheryl On November 21, 2015 at 6:47 am

Those first graders wore her out. Six year olds (that includes Whitney and the first graders) know how to get along.

Janet Sterling On November 21, 2015 at 8:46 am

Ray took his job seriously, and was very proud to help Beth out. That dog will be the talk of first graders for a long, long, long time.?

bethfinke On November 21, 2015 at 10:12 am

Yes, and especially the first-graders that witnessed her being so naughty.


Marilee On November 21, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Another successful school visit! Always love to hear the questions!

bethfinke On November 21, 2015 at 2:02 pm

Oh, me too, Marilee. and you would have especially appreciated the comments from the peanut gallery during this particular visit. Example: when a first-grader asked, “How do you bake if you’re blind?” I went into a pretty elaborate explanation of how I use my sense of touch to measure ingredients, my sense of taste to tell the difference between sugar and salt, my sense of smell to make sure the milk I’m using hasn’t gone sour and so on. After all that, our niece Janet (Ray’s mom) piped up from the back. “Her bread really does taste good,”” she said. “But her kitchen? It’s always a mess!”


Janet On November 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Gotta keep it real.

Sheila A. Donovan On November 21, 2015 at 4:15 pm

I love the kid’s “time out” comparison!

bethfinke On November 21, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Me, too!


annyrusk On November 22, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Can Whitney come and teach Odin a thing or two about obedience? His middle name is distraction!

I’m impressed you bake! Given how hard it is to put the toothpaste on when you can’t see the toothbrush, I can’t imagine the ingenuity it takes to bake in the dark. 🙂

Diane Coron Koziel On November 23, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Beth love reading your posts, imagine a day with first graders was tiring for you and Whitney! Best, Diane

bethfinke On November 24, 2015 at 10:03 am

Diane, so great to hear from you –it’s cold and snowy in Chicago now and your comment here reminds me of that beautiful day at the beach! And you are right –I don’t know which of us was more tired after our visit to Ray’s school, Whit or me. Sure was fun, though!


Deborah Darsie On December 19, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Each post about a classroom visit, I wonder what the kids will ask next!
Even the frequently asked ones sometimes get a special twist.

I wonder when the kids will ask what you put the safety pin in when you have clothing that is label free?

bethfinke On December 22, 2015 at 9:30 am

When they do, I’ll have to confess how this new label-free trend in clothing bothers me –harder to tell the front from the back!


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