Hanni and Whit: Safe & Sound

April 15, 2016 • Posted in blindness, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, travel, Uncategorized, visiting schools, Whitney by

It’s been a busy travel week for my Seeing Eye dog and me. We flew back from our fun-filled Sisters’ Weekend in the Pacific Northwest Monday night and then turned around Wednesday to take a three-hour train ride from Chicago to Champaign, Illinois. The next morning the two of us gave a presentation for an animal sciences class at the University of Illinois. While there, we stayed overnight in Urbana at the home of an old friend: retired Seeing Eye dog Hanni.

There’s Whit with Hanni’s bone during a previous visit to Urbana.

Whitney and Hanni are both Labrador/Golden Retriever crosses, they are both graduates of the Seeing Eye school In Morristown, N.J., and both of them are very, very smart. I had no trouble telling them apart, though. Hanni is a tail wagger — you know it’s her when you hear a thump, thump, thump on the floor. She’s taken on more and more of her Golden Retriever side in these matronly years: she wears her hair long and full. Her coat matches her personality: fluffy.

Whitney, on the other hand, is a lean, mean machine. She’s six years old now, and she no longer shows signs of childish jealousy that she used to on visits with her predecessor.

Sixteen-year-old Hanni is in very good hands with her people Steven and Nancy. She retired five years ago, and she’s slowed down since then, of course.

Hanni no longer runs to greet us when we enter the room. Like the royalty she is, she simply lifts her head and acknowledges us from her bed. The only person she gets up to greet at the door now is her beloved Nancy. At 16 years old (you figure it out in dog years, I can’t do the math) Hanni still gets out regularly with Nancy for walks. Sometimes, when they head to Homer Lake, Hanni even runs.

Nancy and Hanni came in our bedroom Thursday morning to check on us just as I was picking up the Seeing Eye dog harness — it was time to head over to campus for the guest lecture. “Whitney, come!”

“Think Hanni will want you to put it on her instead?” Nancy wondered out loud. I held the harness up, Whitney lifted her head to slide in, and as I buckled her in, Hanni answered Nancy’s question loud and clear. She turned 180 degrees and happily left the room. The girl enjoys her retirement, and who can blame her? It’s a joy to behold.

Shelley On April 15, 2016 at 3:03 pm

Sweet story. I wonder if Hanni knows when Whitney is working: does she leave her alone? Or is all that ancient history?

bethfinke On April 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Hanni leaves Whitney alone when Whitney is working, but I think it’s more because Hanni doesn’t want to get near that harness and give any of us ideas about putting that thing back on her again…!


Annelore Chapin On April 15, 2016 at 3:15 pm

A touching story with a ‘happy ending’ …. what would our lives be without dogs?? Thank you Beth, it made my day. Annelore

bethfinke On April 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm

You’re welcome, Annalore.Now you’ve made my day by leaving this nice compliment to my blog post. Thanks!


Penny Wong-Matzelle On April 15, 2016 at 3:32 pm

Oh, Beth! It’s so good to hear stories of Hanni, post working-dog life. Hearing how content she is lying around and enjoying the good life in her new fluffier coat is sweet, but somehow, it also gives me hope that retirement truly is possible someday for us, hard-working gals!

bethfinke On April 15, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Yes. Hanni is our role model.


Sheila Welch On April 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

Hello Beth,

I love reading about Hanni and Whitney. They certainly are individuals with very different personalities. Fascinating! And I’m so glad that Hanni has had five years of retirement! Time flies by . . .

I’ve been debating whether to ask you to read through a picture book manuscript I’ve been writing. It features a guide dog, but I know how incredibly busy you are. However, you wrote something today that gave me the little push I needed to ask if I could send you THAT DOG AND ME. I have your Easter Seals e-mail address but am not sure that ‘s the best one to use. Could you e-mail me privately to let me know if you’d be interested in a quick look at my manuscript of about 700 words?

My address is: sheialwelch@juno.com

I’ll understand if you’re too busy! No pressure. I am into low key, no pressure, and tail-wagging retirement these days. I’ll tell you more after I’ve gotten your best e-mail address.


bethfinke On April 15, 2016 at 7:04 pm

It would be a privilege. I’ll email you privately after I hit the “send” button on this.


Sheila Welch On April 15, 2016 at 6:46 pm

Whoops! i just noticed that I messed up my e-mail address. Here’s the corrected one: sheilawelch@juno.com

bethfinke On April 15, 2016 at 7:14 pm

Ha! In the time it took you to resend again with the correct address, I already received the dreaded “Returned mail: see transcript for details” message. Will resend now.


Linda Lyon On April 15, 2016 at 11:02 pm

I love it! Hanni is more than welcome to visit us any time with Steven and Nancy in Galena. She’s the ideal guest!

When we visit Steven and Nancy, Hanni sleeps outside our bedroom door after Steven and Nancy leave for work. She’s the perfect hostess!

bethfinke On April 16, 2016 at 9:19 am



Benita Black On April 16, 2016 at 10:19 am

In tribute to Hanni, Whitney and YOU, Miss Bethie, here’s the Oscar-winning song from Working Girl. Bless you all!

bethfinke On April 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

The link put me onto a Carli Simon song –have never seen the movie, and had no idea she wrote most of the music for it. Thanks, as always, for continuing to enlighten me about such things. PS: Until now never dawned on me that “Working Girl” could be a good title for a book (or story) about a Seeing Eye dog.


Benita Black On April 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

It’s a very enjoyable movie,a definite product of the eighties, so it’s possibly dated. That Chicago gal Joan Cusack does a priceless Staten Island accent and is hilarious as the best friend. And yes, Carly wrote the song, which I think is terrific, and much of the music. “Working Girl” would be a delightful title for the autobio of Whitney, as told to her friend Beth. Get busy, yo!!

Deborah Darsie On April 29, 2016 at 12:15 am

Wow, Ms. Hanni probably has many interesting tales to tell. 15 is amazing, especially for a dog who worked such a demanding job!

But my favorite would have to be the way she clearly indicated “I am SO done with that harness! Go forth Whitney!”

bethfinke On April 29, 2016 at 8:49 am

Amen. And she’s sixteen!


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