Friday, January 16, 2009

Man's Best Friend

Many people keep dogs with the primary objective to guard their houses or as family pets. However, I think not many realized to what extent how dogs can be of good companions to the sick, elderly and people with disabilities. We love dogs and have three running about in our garden. The little one, Joyful, is allowed into the house and she has made it her territory, not allowing the other two larger dogs (Prosperous and Lady) to enter the house at all times. After having lost my sight a year ago, I realised that my dogs played a role in helping me get over the depression following my sudden loss of sight. During the times when I was left alone in the house with the dogs, they certainly provided me comfort, calm, and companionship. The therapeutic effect was difficult to describe or explain. Before I lost my sight, the dogs were very ‘chatty’ and playful. They loved to jump about and even onto me at times. Nowadays, perhaps knowing that I cannot see, they have are more well behaved… As I walked about in the garden these days, the dogs will just follow alongside, brushing themselves against my legs now and then, I guess to inform me of their presence, and not jumping about like those good old days.

The little dog, Joyful, with a bell around her neck, would wait for me every morning at the bottom of the staircase and be at my side sticking around me most of the time when I am in the house. At the time of typing this article, she is curled up next to my feet. She would growl and give a snapping bark if someone approached. Joyful, is ever so protective and/or maybe, her way of letting me know of the presence of another. True to the phrase, dog is a man’s best friend.

Yes, our dogs did have some basic obedience training in their early days and could take instructions such as heel, sit, down, stay and come. Even Joyful could perform some tricks, e.g. Playing ‘dead’ when ‘shot’ at and turn over when instructed. Despite all that, they are NOT trained to be blind guide dogs!

For the blind, Guide dogs will definitely be of great help to move about independently and safely, apart from the white cane. The guide dogs are trained, disciplined and their responsibility is to ensure the safety of their masters. It is such a common sight in UK and Germany to see many of the blind people walking about with the blind guide dogs around towns, or accompanying their masters in buses, trams and trains too. It was simply amazing to be able to witness such meaningful sights, when I was in the UK and Germany in one of my travels i.e. before I lost my sight. How I wish in Malaysia we can have such kind of facility. It will indeed change and empower the life of the blind community locally. I have learned from my new V.I.P (Visually Impaired Persons) friends about their past experiences in falling into open drains, walking into road sign boards, lamp posts and other obstructions when they were walking about on their own. I, too, recently had a couple of near misses during my first ever walk on my own with the guidance of my blind friends - the blind leading the blind!

I have tried to check around about the training of blind guide dogs, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that no such dogs are available here in Malaysia. Not sure if this is correct though! Any info on this matter is much appreciated.

More challenging times ahead.

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