Seeing Eye dogs never get a day off

March 15, 2017 • Posted in blindness, careers/jobs for people who are blind, guide dogs, Seeing Eye dogs, Whitney by

The snow this week has a lot of people asking me if my dog Whitney likes being out in winter weather. Truth is, she doesn’t have much choice. Poor guide dogs, they never get a day off work!

The snow started falling in Chicago Sunday, and it was still coming down last night. Snowy weather is often more time-consuming, more physically and mentally tiring and can be more dangerous than traveling in good weather.

Photo of Beth and Whitney, Beth showing the cleats on the soles of her boots.

Whitney and I get a little help from our friends–my brother-in-law Rick gifted me these nifty cleats I can stretch over my boots for traction.

When I was a kid, I thought it was magical the way snowfall muffled the sound around you. I still do. But my walks with Whitney this week haven’t been the magic I’m looking for. Enough snow fell to mask the audible cues I use to navigate the city. Commuters who could see were trudging through the Loop (downtown Chicago’s business district) with their heads down to avoid the snow pelting their faces. That would have been fine if they all had dogs like mine to guide them, but they didn’t. Whitney was on her own, weaving me around the blinded commuters in our path.

And that’s not all: Snow has accumulated between the raised, circular bumps I’ve come to rely on to tell me we’re at the edge of a curb ramp, so I’m not always sure where we are.

“Stay home!” friends and family tell me. Easy for them to say, but some of us have to go to work! And then there’s this: We live on the seventh floor of an apartment building, and Whitney needs to get out and “empty” every once in a while. Not to mention, get some exercise.

Eyebrows up! All I have to do on days like this is take a deep breath and remember what trainers drummed into our heads when my blind peers and I were first learning to work with our guides: Trust your dog. Hold on tight to Whitney’s harness, and follow her lead. “Whitney, forward!”

Regan Burke On March 15, 2017 at 10:00 am

“blind commuters” that’s me. And today it’s over, except, of course for those treacherous intersections.

Mary Rayis On March 15, 2017 at 10:26 am

Beth, You have learned a key component of faith: trust! Here’s to a rapid melting of all that snow and onward to spring.

Paula On March 15, 2017 at 10:34 am

Thank you for this post, Beth! I will remember your vivid illustration of how trust works.

Linda Miller On March 15, 2017 at 11:12 am

Great ending to this post! Hoping for a speedy melt and easier walking.

Sheila A. Donovan On March 15, 2017 at 11:36 am

I shared this, so that all the people grumbling about the snow can put it in perspective.

Larry M. On March 15, 2017 at 11:49 am

My new mantra, ” hold on tight” or maybe just goreard

Larry M. On March 15, 2017 at 11:51 am

Oops — Forward

Karen Giammarese On March 15, 2017 at 11:58 am

You rock, Beth Finke!

Nancy P. On March 15, 2017 at 1:17 pm

Beth, Three cheers for you and Whitney. It sounds like you strive to let nothing hold you back. We can all learn from that lesson!! Thank you for sharing your snow story!!

Janet On March 15, 2017 at 1:25 pm

Your dog and Rick. What else could you ever need???

Sharon On March 15, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Beth. You are a true hero of mine. I love your honesty. “Hold on tight and trust” is a great philosophy of how to be in the world. I am going to try it.

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