Braille Monitor                                                                                May-June 1986


Of Dog Guides and Guide Dogs

(Note: Is it much about nothing, or nothing about much--or somewhere between?

Peas porridge hot; peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old.)

New York, New York
February 13, 1986

Dear Dr. Jernigan:

Jacquilyn Billey suggested that I send you a copy of the following item for possible inclusion in the Braille Monitor. It is in response to a reediting of an article that I initially published in the Long Cane Newsletter. Not only did they convert every one of my Guide Dogs into a Dog Guide, the editors retitied our forthcoming book "A Guide to Guide Dog Schools" to "A Guide to Dog Guide Schools." The present article is m response to that reversal.

I know that NFB prefers the term Dog Guide, but the enclosed article might raise the issue once again and result in a reversal of the stand taken by NFB.

Thanks for the opportunity of submitting this material. I eagerly look forward to each month's issue of the Monitor and want to congratulate you on what I believe to be one of the most informative and professionally produced publications for the blind and by the blind. I particularly look forward to your speeches.

Edwin Eames
Professor of Anthropology
Baruch College



by Edwin J. Eames, Baruch College
Toni A. Gardiner, Kings Park
Psychiatric Center
Charles Warnath, Oregon State
University, Corvallis

Most of us who are blind and use dogs as mobility aides often hear the following remark: "What a beautiful seeing eye dog." Although all three of us are teamed with a dog, only Ed Eames has a seeing eye dog. Although Ed Eames may respond to this remark with a smile, Toni Gardiner and Chuck Warnath respond less favorably. Using the term seeing eye to refer to all dogs that guide biind people is like using the word Kleenex to refer to all tissues or Xerox to refer to all copy machines. Presently there are ten guide dog schools in the United States in addition to The Seeing Eye, Incorporated.

When Toni Gardiner and Chuck Warnath are confronted with the statement: "What a beautiful seeing eye dog," their response is: "That's no seeing eye dog; that's my guide dog" Today they can't even make that statement. Why not? Because now they're told that we have to call them dog guides.

This revisionist movement to change our guide dogs into dog guides is apparent from the last issue of The Long Cane Newsletter in which the title of our forthcoming book "A Guide to Guide Dog Schools" was changed to "A Guide to Dog Guide Schools." Why the insistance on this usage? The only reason we can think of is to compare dog guides with human guides.

What are the arguments to sustain the use of guide dogs rather than dog guides? First, the term guide dogs is the traditional one used in the literature dealing with dogs to guide the blind. Even Peter Putnam, the official historian of The Seeing Eye, Incorporated, in his volume "Love in the Lead," notes that he uses the term guide dog throughout the volume despite the fact that The Seeing Eye, Incorporated, prefers the usage of dog guide. Second, five of the eleven operational schools in the country that train such dogs use guide dogs in their school name. Third, the only existing state agency that licenses such schools, the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, has the term guide dog in its organizational name. Fourth, the use of the term guide dog places the functional purpose of the dog before the noun. This is common usage in English and parallels other terms such as signal dogs, dogs trained for the hearing impaired; service dogs, dogs trained for the physically handicapped; and therapy dogs, dogs trained for the mentally ill. Traditionally, dogs have been classified by their functions. Thus, we have hunting dogs, herding dogs, guard dogs, and even lap dogs. If we can contrast the term dog sled with sled dog, it seems apparent that a dog sled is a sled that would be pulled by dogs, whereas a sled dog is a dog who pulls a sled. In a similar fashion, show dog and house dog can be contrasted with dog show and dog house. By analysis, we conclude that a dog guide must be a guide to the various breeds of dogs. By contrast, a guide dog must be a dog that guides someone.

From the above arguments it must be apparent that the three of us infinitely prefer the term guide dog to dog guide. We are not going to retitle our book. In addition, the next time an editor decides to tamper with our usage, we will organize a peaceful demonstration outside of the headquarters of the American Foundation for the Blind and bring all of our guide dogs with us.


Baltimore, Maryland
March 4, 1986

Dear Professor Eames:

I have your interesting article on guide dogs, and before publishing it, I thought we should have a bit of dialogue. I had always used the term guide dog until somebody or another told me with some acerbity that a guide dog was trained by Guide Dogs, Inc., of San Rafael, California--that all dogs which guide the blind are not guide dogs any more than they are seeing eye dogs. In short, I was told in no uncertain manner that the only term open to me was dog guide.

Presumably if someone should set up a school called Dog Guides, Inc., I would be deprived of even that. God knows what I would use then--"canine ambulatory adjuncts," perhaps. But, of course, even that might disappear if it took somebody's fancy.

The term dog guide has always struck me as artificial and stilted, but I use it--simply because I want to get along in the world, because I do not wish to trample on feelings unnecessarily, and because there is a limit as to how many and what kind of wars one can fight. Having said all of which, I now come straight to the nub of the matter: Tell me true. Is the term guide dog the property of the school in San Rafael, or have I been misled and misinformed? If I call a leader dog or a seeing eye dog a guide dog (purely in a generic sense, of course), will the dog bite me or the school sue me? Even if these things do not happen, will I be regarded as uninformed or lacking good taste? I express no opinion. I merely come as a humble seeker.

Very truly yours,
Kenneth Jernigan,
National Federation of the Blind


New York, New York
March 12, 1986

Dear Dr, Jernigan: Thank you very much for your letter acknowledging the article prepared by us for publication in the Long Cane Newsletter.

We, of course, share your concern for the proper use of language and the obvious potential for litigation. Certainly, if Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., of San Rafael, California, has a patent on the term "guide dogs," then we would be in trouble. Like you, we had been told when we began writing our book that if we use the term guide dog we would open ourselves to a potential suit brought by the school in San Rafael. However, as we began to look at the previous literature and as we had contact with the school in San Rafael, such concerns disappeared. At this time, we do not believe that Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc., or any other guide dog school would challenge our legal and legitimate right to use the term guide dog. Since four other schools have the term guide dog in their title, no one of them could claim a patent or trademark right to the term.

When we first heard the term "dog guide" we were quite puzzled. Our first Impression was that this would have to be a book describing the various breeds of dogs in the United States. After all, what would a book guide be other than a book about books. However, the guide book would be quite something else. Therefore, after some confusion we went back to the term guide dog and are firmly committed to its use in our forthcoming publication, in our everyday conversations, and when we talk to our dogs. In fact, when we have listened in on conversations among our dogs we find that they still refer to themselves as guide dogs.

Edwin Eames and his guide dog Perrier
Toni Ann Gardiner and her guide dog Ivy
Charles Warnath and his guide dog Pogo