Photo of Toni and Ed Eames

  Toni and Ed Eames

	To Touch the Untouchable Dream

	by Toni and Ed Eames


	From the Editor: The following article is the title story 

from the latest Kernel Book, which was published late last year. 

It begins with Dr. Jernigan's introduction


	Toni and Ed Eames are active members of the National 

Federation of the Blind and long-time leaders in our special 

interest division for guide dog users. They are recognized 

experts in the whole area of assistance dogs for the disabled and 

write a regular column for Dog World. Recently their lifelong 

interest in animals took them on a very special expedition to the 

African bush. Here is their story:


	As we crashed through the bush in an open Land Rover, we 

could hear ranger John's radio receiver crackling the news that a 

pride of lions had been sighted fairly close to our position. 

Slowing the vehicle to a crawl, John warned us to be quiet. 

Suddenly we heard a shared exclamation from the other members of 

our party--the lions had been spotted, and we came to a halt.
	The dreamlike quality of this encounter with wild animals in 

the African bush was reinforced as members of our delegation 

described the scene in barely audible whispers. Everyone seemed 

to hold his or her breath as an adult female lion sauntered 

alongside our vehicle and crossed the road in front of us. At one 

point she was no more than eight feet away.
	This encounter with lions was just one of many memorable 

experiences we had during our two-day visit at Exeter Game Lodge 

in South Africa. While crashing through the bush, "bundu bashing" 

as the locals call it, we came almost in touching distance of 

leopards, zebras, giraffes, elephants, and hundreds of impala 

(small deer on the bottom of the feeding chain).
	What gave these adventures a dreamlike quality was the 

inability to touch or hear these animals. Except for the time 

when Ed climbed down from the Land Rover to feel the footprint 

left by a lion who had recently strolled by, the reality of the 

situation was filtered through the descriptions of our sighted 

	Fortunately we were able to obtain a tactile impression of 

many of these animals. The rangers working for Exeter, a wild 

game lodge on the outskirts of Kreuger National Park, the largest 

reserve in South Africa, had collected the skulls of many of the 

animals inhabiting the area. Examining the skulls, jaw bones, 

horns, and antlers of the many varieties of deer who roamed the 

open, unfenced area around Exeter, neighboring game reserves, and 

Kreuger helped turn our dreamlike Land Rover trips into a more 

realistic image of what these animals were like. On display in 

the lounge area was a taxidermed lion pouncing on an impala, 

which showed us what raw and savage nature was all about.
	Both of us grew up in New York City, where animals such as 

those roaming the South African bush were only found in zoos. 

Love of animals was a central theme in Toni's childhood. As a 

young blind child she went with her mother on frequent outings to 

the Bronx Zoo, but her mother could not adequately describe the 

variety of animals on display. Always anxious to encourage her 

blind daughter to explore the world around her, Toni's mother 

encouraged touching objects in the environment. Since lions, 

tigers, and bears were not accessible to touch, she began 

purchasing realistic ceramic, wood, glass, plastic, and brass 

miniatures to teach Toni about the structural differences among 

various animal species.
	Over the years this collection has grown and expanded, and 

Toni has become expert at identifying animal statuary by touch. 

On the other hand Ed, who was sighted until his early forties, 

visited zoos and received his animal information through visual 

	One of the attractions of Fresno, California, the city to 

which we moved after our marriage ten years ago, was the presence 

of a wonderful zoo with an understanding director. Dr. Paul 

Chaffee was fascinated with the idea of transforming Toni's 

knowledge of animals through statuary into knowledge from real-

life experience. He invited us to visit behind the scenes to get 

in touch with many of the animals in the zoo.
	Over the years we have been able to touch elephants, 

Galapagos tortoises, spider monkeys, a skunk, an oryx, a ferret, 

and a variety of birds. Some of these animals were part of the 

zoo mobile, some were being cared for in the nursery, and some 

were on display. Being able to feed apples to Chauncey and Nosey 

in the elephant holding area was a thrill, although Ed was a bit 

apprehensive one day when Chauncey wrapped her trunk around him 

with the message that it wasn't time for Ed to leave. Paul 

relished our obvious pleasure and excitement at these encounters 

with his exhibit animals.
	Realizing that our passion for animal interaction went far 

beyond what was available in Fresno, Paul arranged with directors 

at zoos located in San Diego, the Bronx, San Francisco, and 

Washington, D.C., for us to come and get in touch with animals in 

their collections. Among our acquaintances from these visits were 

a sea lion, an emu, a clouded leopard, a chinchilla, a kinkajou, 

an octopus, an armadillo, snakes, lizards, and some insects.
	At our National Federation of the Blind conventions we have 

explored the horns and skins of taxidermed animals presented by 

the Safari Club. This has been supplemented by exploring a 

stuffed buffalo on display in a South Dakota museum and a lion on 

display at the Theodore Roosevelt Museum in New York. In all 

these cases the animals were touchable and full size.
	The hunt for touchable animals is enhanced by our careers as 

writers and lecturers. As columnists for Dog World magazine, 

lecturers at veterinary schools, and writers about disability and 

animal-related subjects, we travel extensively. During our 

travels we take every opportunity to visit zoos and museums with 

touchable animal exhibits.
	When we received an invitation to be part of the cultural 

exchange delegation sponsored by People to People International 

Citizen Ambassador Program to South Africa, we jumped at the 

opportunity. Not only would it give us the chance to enhance our 

careers as writers, educators, and lecturers, it would also take 

us to Exeter, a charming and luxurious private game preserve.
	After months of planning, our South African odyssey became a 

reality. Our two-day stay at elegant and lavish Exeter, a haven 

for animal lovers, exceeded all our expectations. Even after we 

returned to the lodge following the Land Rover expeditions, the 

presence of untamed and free-roaming animals was an ever-present 

reality. Monkeys inhabited trees near the veranda during the 

morning hours hoping to swoop down on some unprotected food.
	At dawn and dusk a hippopotamus drank at the river skirting 

the compound. While sitting at the edge of the pool, a member of 

our group was startled when a snake slithered up his body and 

onto his back. It was apparent that just outside Exeter Lodge was 

a world as far removed from our childhood homes in New York City 

as one could imagine.
	When we share photographs of this dreamlike trip with 

friends back home in Fresno, they ask where Escort and Echo were 

during our adventure. We explain that, although our guide dogs 

have accompanied us to many American zoos, their presence in the 

African bush was quite another story. While we were having our 

untouchable dream, they were quietly awaiting our return at the 

lodge. Although the wild animals in the preserve are used to Land 

Rovers filled with people, they are not exposed to dogs, and we 

agreed with our host at Exeter, Leon, that it would be a good 

idea to let them relax back in our room.
	The sighted members of the delegation have photographs and 

videos to keep their memories alive. To make our memory of this 

untouchable dream tactile, we brought home many new wild animal 

miniatures. The next time we visit the elephants in our Fresno 

zoo, we can tell them we saw their relatives in South Africa.