Guide Dogs: A Natural Bond


Don: Holly’s actually a
very adaptable dog. She seems to know exactly
what’s inside my head. I don’t know how
she does it. But she’s just marvelous. Having a guide dog has
meant so much to me. He’s how I get to work. And he’s how I get home. He’s like my baby and
my companion. He enriches my life
by just being in it. Humans have a close
affinity with dogs… because we’ve lived in close
proximity for thousands of years. Guide dogs have a very
intense role with their owners. They are more in tuned with
them than many pet dogs, I think. Holly is a very happy
and joyous dog… who loves it when
the door bell rings. She loves people. Holly is now seven years. She has a birthday
in December… she’ll be eight years old. I don’t know which of
us who will last the longest. We will have to wait
and see. I had some sight up until
the age of seven. And I had Infantile Glaucoma… which meant that I either
lost my life or lost my sight. In the 1960s, I’d heard about… The Seeing Eye Dog Training
Unit in Morristown, New Jersey. Which is the birth place of
modern guide dog training. When I went to Britain as a 20 year
old to train as a Physiotherapist. Before I came back to
New Zealand I said… I must get myself
a guide dog. Rosemary: We met
in England… at the Physiotherapy
School For The Blind. I was born with
a sight defect. I’m legally blind but I have
broad peripheral vision. So, I feel that I have got a
good functional level of sight. Don is very generous
with his guide dogs. We are allowed to love them
as much as we want to. Don: The first dog
I got was Jassle. Jassle was the 4th
guide dog in New Zealand. There were three
others before me. Of course, guide dogs were
very unusual in New Zealand. Many of us did talks
around the country. We had to publicize the
benefits of guide dogs… and the ability to bring
them into restaurants… and houses and
public places. So, we were a band
of pioneers really. Jassle first came back
to Auckland in the mid-60s. I rang up the bus
company and said… I’ve got a job at
Auckland Hospital… and I’ll be catching
the 7.30am bus. They said, “Sorry Sir, no you can’t
bring your dog on the bus.” “It’s totally prohibited and
against the law.” “We won’t have it.” So, the Howick Bus
Company said… “Show us what this
dog can do?” “Does this dog really hop on
the bus and keep quiet?” “Yes” I said, and they said, “We’ll
take you for a ride around the block.” Jassle jumped onto the bus and
went straight under the seat… as they are trained to do
and he drove me round the block. And Jassle stayed
nice and calm. And he said,
“That’s amazing” And, “Not only can you bring your
dog on the bus at any time,” “but I will give you a
free pass as well.” That was the beginning
of giving me some confidence… that guide dogs could begin to
be accepted in New Zealand. We managed to get the
Dog Registration Act changed… so that guide dogs could
go into public places. And happily that’s the
way it now stands. We breed about 100 to
120 puppies… here at Guide Dog
Services every year… because we need variety.
They need to be perfect. They need to have perfect health,
they can’t be scared of things. They need to pass about 55 tests
that we put them through. Donna is what we call
a maiden bitch. This is her very first litter. Five little gorgeous
black puppies. And they will be six
weeks old tomorrow. We bring them up
to this room… and we have all this colorful stuff
for them to explore and play with. New experiences, that’s what the
little mirror is about, on the wall. So they can start to see themselves
and go, “What’s that?” “Am I happy with that?
Am I not?” All the lovely colorful dangly things
you can see from the ceiling… are there deliberately to try and
help teach them to look up. In the wild, dogs don’t have any
predators that attack them from above. So, looking up is not
natural for them. But we need them too if they’re
going to be guide dogs. So that guide dog handlers don’t get
a tree branch in the shoulder or head. These dogs are
very intelligent… and they’re able to
learn a huge amount. Guide dogs are very
adaptable and they need to be… because they’re exposed
to a lot of different events. And they have to go
to different destinations. We have guide dog handlers who
work in the middle of Auckland city… trains, planes and buses, all over
New Zealand for business purposes. They need a dog like
Head Dot there. He’s the most confident puppy
that we’ve had in a long time. He’s just up for anything. We have other slightly
older people, retired… and they like to take it slow up to
the local club 2-3 times a week… or to the dairy or go
and visit friends. So, a quieter type of
dog is needed. We need the variety. We’re encouraging them
to try new things. Encouraging them to climb
on those colorful objects. And we let them fall off. If everything as much as
possible is positive… and we let them develop
at their own speed, then they’ll get more
and more confident. And that is one of the
key things we need – confident decision makers. On the Puppy Program… the puppies are placed with a
puppy walker at 9 weeks of age. And they have them from
a year to 16 months. The role of the puppy walker
is hugely important… because we need to get
them bonding with that dog, and also developing the
idiosyncrases and individuality… that each puppy can
have to offer. I was dropping him
off at school… and saw somebody with
two Labradors. I said to them, “My son wants
a dog but I’m not too sure.” She said, “Have you thought
about puppy walking?” I had never heard
of it before. So, I went home and Googled
it and was very interested. The role of the puppy walker
is to socialize her to different areas. So anything that has different
sounds, noises, smells, people. Training experience is
the rubbish truck… because the noise can
really unsettle them. It can really frighten them. But what we tend to do
is just watch them. Not make a big
deal out of it. And if their body
language changes… they might need
some encouragment. But we wouldn’t say,
“Poor puppy,” or feed into that fear
or uncertainty. Just say in an upbeat way,
“You’re okay, you’re alright, let’s go.” I am very connected with her. They are with you
more than pets… because you do grocery
shopping with them… you go to the pool with
them with your kids… or you go to sports and
restaurants with them. She’s been on date night
with my husband and I into the city. As a puppy walker you always
want your puppy to do the best. You never want to think that
you’re the person that’s failed them. This is a bit like having a
Plunket checkup, I love it. So, Leila has just come
out of kennels? Nicky: Yes. And everything went okay? Nicky: She struggles a bit
with her adaptability… when she’s away from
me, it seems. I would suggest that in the home
over the next few weeks, change things that you
do around here. If you normally feed her at
7pm, change it to 8pm. And vary where you sleep her. I would be visiting Nicky,
to supervise her puppy Leila, to check on the progress
she’s making… to set new milestones for
her along the way. And also to offer support and coaching
for Nicky as a volunteer walker. “Pull her back and stop,”
good that’s right. Nicky: Leila, Leila,
back and stop. Leila, leave, good. You may not feel like
you’re winning. But you’re teaching her that,
“Okay I do have to keep stopping.” That’s right pull back, release. Nicky: Good girl, leave. Well done, and heaps
of praise. Nicky: Good girl, good girl. This is a lot they need
to learn and cope with, so they need to be confident. The latest way of training
is all positive reinforcement. And there is no punishment used. What we do if we don’t
want a behavior to occur… is do what we call
“Extinguish it” by ignoring it. Nicky: I normally have to walk her
down this section of the footpath… because she loves all
that down there. That’s how we train them,
for a client there are billboards, rubbish bins, so we want them
nice and central as they go. So just move her back on
this side and shorten the lead. Nicky: Leila, sit, sit.
Good girl, settle. That was a good opportunity
to see tha dog outside the library… It’s something I’m uncertain of
at times, so it’s nice to get your input. Definitely her level of
dog distraction is high and… if she was a working dog it wouldn’t
be acceptable for her to behave like that. But we have to remember that
she’s just over 12 months old. Nicky: She’s trying to get to
the crumbs under the table. Nicky: Good girl, settle,
good girl, settle, that’s it. When our puppies do
wear their red coats, we do deem them
to be working. The majority of puppies
would spend… a couple of walks a day
in their red coat. But the rest of the time
it is fun time. The play time is equally
important for them. They are puppies, they’re
not miniature guide dogs. So they need to release energy
and have fun at the end of the day. Noah, my seven year old
has grown so much with Leila. He spends a big part of his day
just lying on the carpet cuddling her. And in the mornings before school
they lie on the kitchen floor… paw to paw and nose
to nose. There’s recent research
come out of Japan and they looked at what
we call ‘puppy dog eyes’ where people stare into
each others eyes, or stare into a puppy’s eyes
and they feel a lot of love. There’s actually a
release of Oxytocin. What they’ve discover
is with the puppies… equivalent to when a mother
and baby look at each other, and there’s a bonding
process that goes on. Dogs certainly
experience emotions, similar to the emotions
that we experience. So they will be sad, they maybe
unhappy about something. I don’t know sometimes how
I’m going to pass her back. You have to tell yourself that
you are their foster parent, that they are not your pet
and it’s going to be hard. But you are doing it
for the greater good. I get up about 6.30am
sometimes a bit later. I have my shower and Prentice
tends to wait outside the door. Then I feed him and that’s
his favorite part of course. He gets pretty excited. He watches Mum eat and
waits patiently, sometimes. Usually he just
wants to get going. So, I quickly have my breakfast
and then we’re out the door. Walking up to the bus station
and ready for work. He gets excited going to the
bus station because he loves to work. I was born with
Congenital Cataracts. In both eyes I was
completely blind. So they did about 13 surgeries
before the age of four. They managed to give me
some sight in my right eye. And pretty much none
in my left eye, which was a lazy eye. I can see very large print
up close for a short period. I am very short sighted. Maybe half a meter in front
of my face to see basic things. “Good boy, it’s alright.” “It’s alright the cat’s not there.” The thing with the
harness is that… it allows you to feel the
body movements of the dog. I can feel when Prentice
turns his head left, I can feel when he
turns it right. I know when his attention will
jerk away to something else. When he’s suddenly alert
his body becomes stiff. His whole aura, for me, becomes
very tense and unsure. “Straight across.” You’ve got to trust that your dog
knows exactly what they’re doing. And if they say, “Stop”
then you stop. The guide dogs will be happy to do
exactly what their owner tells them. But a guide dog has to
think twice about something when it’s told to, “Go forward”
and there’s traffic coming. The dog needs to be able to say,
“No it’s not safe I’m not going.” They certainly can make
snap decisions on their own. I was with my guide dog
instructor once, we were chatting and
walking along the street. And suddenly Prentice stopped
and a car screeched in front of us. He actually saved all
three of us really. It does seem a lot of
pressure to put them under. And yes it is pressured,
it’s a hard job that they do. But they seem to cope
very well with it. And they also have the up
side of constant companionship. “Find the button please.”
“Find the button.” “Good boy.” He ignores everyone, he’s
very “mummy orientated” and very focused. Almost from day one
he was watching me. He sort of knew that I was
going to be the person… that he protected
and looked after. This is my very first job. I’m really enjoying it.
I love working here. I love the people and
I love the environment. We’re in the National offices for
New Zealand Blue Light Adventures. We’re a youth charity and
work with kids at risk. Prentice is a laugh. It took us a bit to get use to the
protocols around having a guide dog. You’re not sure when you can play
with the dog and when you can’t. And Michelle’s helped
us through that. It’s a complex relationship, I guess. When he’s got the harness on,
the way he behaves… and looks after her is
really remarkable. And quite a different dog
with the harness off. And we can play with him like
a normal dog without the harness. Throw the ball for him
and pat him. They switch as soon as
you put the harness on, they change and switch.
And that’s really important… because they’ve got that measure of
what they should be doing at that time. “Hot cholocate, let’s go
find the door.” Prentice knows where
each isle starts. When I say, “Find the next isle”
he’ll find the next isle for me. And he will watch out for any
trolleys or other little obstacles. He will weave me
around people. He also knows exactly
where certain things are. He often stops right in
front of the chocolate. “It’s the chocolate isn’t it?
Yes it’s the chocolate!” I have a little machine
called “Ruby.” And it takes moving video… or snapshots of things and then
enlarge them on screen to look at them. He knows where the counters
and self-service checkouts are. And when I say, “Find the
one that’s free, Prentice” he will go to one
that’s empty. “Find a spot”
“Find a counter” Don: Holly’s prone to picking
up bits of rubbish… on Queen Street from
time to time. She’s not adverse to snatching a tissue
that had a hamburger wrapped in it. So, those are the sorts of things
that need to be controlled a little… because we’ve got a job
to do here, Holly, (laughs). And we have no time
for loitering in public places. Whereas one of my
previous dogs, Senna… she stayed close by and
wouldn’t leave my side. They’ve all got
different personalities and you have to work with
those personalities in a way to really get to know them
and build on their strengths. And that’s all part of
that bonding thing that is so critical to a good
working relationship. Working with Jassle
taught me a lot about my own
emotional life. But the bond was really
demonstrated at the end of her life. One day, Jassle jumped up
to the train and she winced a bit, thereafter she
started limping. I took her to the vet and
he x-rayed her. It was determined she had
actually developed a tumor, a sarcoma on her back thigh
and that her leg had broken. So, she worked for a week on this
broken leg still guiding me about. Once I knew her leg
had broken, I would go off to work in the
morning, leaving Jassle at home and she would creep into
our bedroom and get up on the bed. Now, she never did that,
only in those last days. But it shows the affection
and the bond that there is. She was a wonderful dog. Announcer: Michelle Anne-Marie
Jackson and her helper, Nelly. I got Nelly when I was
17 years old. She was my guide dog
until she was 11 years old. She was my baby. It was very hard
when I lost Nelly. I got very upset. I knew it was coming because
we got the diagnosis of lung cancer. So we knew that it was a matter
of months, maybe weeks. And it turned out
to be two months. I had to make the decision, I took her
to the vets and had her put down. Our dogs are incredibly special… and they’re special to our
whole guide dog family. When one of our dogs
passes away… we organize a plaque and often
we’ll have a memorial ceremony. It’s imporant, they are important and
they’ve done an amazing job. Everybody who’s had a dog that’s close
to them and they have lost that dog, they find that they can’t just go out
and get another dog to replace it. They need that time to grieve… and to remember everything
they did with the dog. Then they’ll come to a point
where they start to long for a dog and long for that companionship again. My parents said that they wanted
me to have another dog… because they felt safer with
me with a dog and they knew I was more
mobile and more independent when I had a dog, compared
to having a cane. Years and years later
when Senna was very new, and Jenny came to
visit Senna, she said to Don, “Dad what does
it feel like to be complete?” And we said afterwards, that
was an interesting comment. But we realized that it
must have been… how as a small child just knowing
that Don and a dog were a unit. Don: All my four dogs have helped
at various stages of my life. It’s all about loving
them to bits… and making sure that
that bond is there. It’s an unconditional relationship
that they give to you. They’re not asking to be judged
or judging themselves. They are very forgiving. Michelle: It’s definitely an emotional
bond for me, anyway. I think Prentice loves me. How do I know? Because I always get
kisses in the morning. I can just feel
their eyes on me. I love him.
He’s my buddy.

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6 Responses

  1. N3rfe3d says:

    Till the day there is a Guide "cat", 🐕 are the only pet that worth while getting.

  2. Dorothy Joseph says:

    AHH! Attitude, I feel good watching this channel

  3. DexterTheGermanHusky says:

    Purely possitive training is a joke.

  4. Landon’s Chanel says:

    She called the female dog a bitch.. I giggled

  5. C. Tosin says:

    Love them all

  6. Jade Scribbler says:

    Over the last few years I've been slowly warming up to getting a guide dog.
    I love dogs, but I had a teacher with some very twisted opinions on guide dogs in middle school. He'd be like "They're for working, you can't give them any love or you might as well flush that $40000 dog down the toilet!" So for the rest of my teenage years, I didn't want to hear a word about guide dogs in protest. I know better now, though… Still, I'm kind of afraid of when that right time is. I still live at home, and live rurally. Last year, I was in a dorm for college and kind of felt it'd be cruel to have a guide dog stuffed in a dorm room with me, even if I did get out and walk a lot.
    I basically feel like all that training would be wasted until I'm more active, hopefully get accepted to grad school, get a job, etc etc.
    Still, I'm more open to the idea than I was. I seriously started considering guide dogs again when I was camping with family and we were taking our dogs on a nighttime walk. I had left my cane in the car and felt quite a bit more comfortable on the dark terrain with the dog on the leash than on my own, at which point I jokingly asked for my guide dog back.
    I'm very partial to poodles, as we have 4 of them, but I know that sort of match isn't very common unless you get your guide dog from specific places and have alergies. I love dogs in general, though, and at the end of the day it's not the breed, but the match that matters.
    I'm rambling, but anyway it's so nice to see more of how guide dogs can positively impact people.

  7. Jade Scribbler says:

    Awww crud… those last few minutes made me TOTALLY try not to bawl like a baby!!!
    Losing a pet is hard, but a companion like that… I can't imagine.

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