Future Reflections Spring 1992, Vol. 11 No. 2

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IS THERE A GUIDE DOG IN YOUR FUTURE?
by Ed and Toni Eames

     We co-chair the NFB of California Guide Dog Committee and write a monthly column for Dog World Magazine. Toni has worked with three guide dogs over a twenty-five year period and Ed has worked with two guide dogs in the past ten years. Our lives have been enriched and our mobility enhanced by our partnership with our dogs.

     As a congenitally blind child growing up in the 1940's, Toni was given no information about mobility techniques until she was sixteen. At that time, she was given a short white cane and minimal instruction in its use. When she was twenty-two, Toni met a guide dog user who demonstrated the benefits of mobility with a dog. Shortly thereafter, she got her first guide dog and has chosen this mobility option ever since.

     We all recognize and applaud the revolution that has taken place in O&M training in the past four decades. Although nowadays very young children are given white canes, the guide dog schools are mired in tradition and have remained fixated on sixteen as the minimum age for guide dog training. In fact, some schools have increased the minimum age of application to seventeen and eighteen.

     Foundation Mira, a French Canadian guide dog school, has courageously broken with tradition. Last summer a class of twelve- to fifteen-year-old youngsters was partnered with guide dogs. American guide dog schools resist this break with tradition, despite the success service dog programs have had for more than a decade in matching children under ten who are wheelchair users with working dogs.

     In a future Dog World column, we plan to focus on the issue of children with guide dogs. Please send us your views. If you are a blind youngster, let us know how you think a guide dog would benefit you. How old are you? How would you meet the challenge of assuming the responsibility of caring for a dog and maintaining its high level of training? Would your parents encourage your independence with a dog? How would you handle the potential problem of managing your guide dog in school? If you are the parent of a blind youngster, what do you see as the benefits of a guide dog for your child? How old is your child? Does your child have the maturity to take responsibility for the care of a guide dog? In what ways would a guide dog enhance your child's independence?

     You can write to us in Braille, cassette, or print. We will include excerpts from selected letters in our column, "Partners in Independence." We can be reached at 3376 North Wishon, Fresno, California 93704; telephone: 209-224-0544. 

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