Guide Dogs And Englishmen

Given the fact that blindness is mentioned in the title of this blog, it seems reasonable that from time to time, I should write a post which has something to do with it. As I have only mentioned blindness once since I started bombarding you all with my weekly witterings, and then only in passing, I thought that I should do something about it.

As every blind reader will know, there are a number of questions which we are all asked with monotonous regularity. For the benefit of those of you who are not blind, and who haven’t spent a lot of time around at least one blind person, please be kind enough to look, read and attend. I shall provide you with some examples of questions, and possibly some of the answers.

“Can you see light?” yes. “So, you’re not really blind then?” Actually, yes I am. Only about 4 per cent of blind people have no light perception at all. I am not one of the 4 per cent.

“How do you know that your clothes go together?” Rather boringly, for those seeking a profound and interesting answer, I buy sensibly, so that all my garments will go together.

“From listening to my voice, how old do you think I am?” Dear reader, if you ever ask me that question, I shall either say something annoying such as, “twice half your age”, or “as old as your tongue, and a little older than your teeth”, or, if I’m feeling less polite, I shall, with the aid of a number of profanities, urge you to remove yourself from my presence. What an utterly ridiculous question!

“Can you hear better than a sighted person?” Possibly. Possibly not. That would depend on which person the interlocutor had in mind, and then on the findings of an audiologist. However, I can often, although by no means always, listen better. By that I mean that I pay more attention to what I’m hearing than most people, in the same way that a professional wine taster pays more attention to flavour than most people do. If you’re willing to make the effort, you too can learn to pay more attention to sound or flavour.

“How do blind people have sex?” Yes, dear reader, I have been asked that. Twice. I’d like to think that it was a clumsy way of asking how blind people are attracted to others. After all, eyes meeting across a crowded room isn’t likely. Not unless prosthetic eyes are being used in a game of marbles. But given the inherent gormlessness of the individuals concerned, I fear that that would be over charitable. So, a silly question gets a silly answer.

But the question that makes me want to hurt people, and to curse the fecundity of their forebears, is “a guide dog would be better for you than a cane, wouldn’t it?” No. No it would not. Having had a guide dog, I know this for a fact.

Now, before any guide dog owners, or any other dog lovers for that matter, get cross with me, I am not being critical of guide dogs. I fully recognise that they really are excellent at what they do. Walks through town centres are often made immeasurably easier by being guided by a dog than they would be when negotiating every single piece of pavement furniture with a cane. Walks from A to B are consequently much quicker. Many people report that having a guide dog massively increases their confidence when they are out. These are great and wonderful things. But to me, through no fault of its own, a guide dog is a damn nuisance, and not for any obvious reasons. True, it’s a relief not to have to make sure I leave home with quantities of canine paraphernalia, or to have to worry about whether or not a dog will fit under a seat on a train, or a table in a restaurant. I’m also happy that I no longer have to crawl around in the rain, hunting for stray turds. Guide dogs are very clever, but they can’t clear up after themselves. No. The problem is people. With minimal effort, they used to release my, admittedly barely suppressed, inner misanthrope.

Almost from the moment I got my dog, people started coming up to me to talk about, or more accurately, ask about him. “He’s a handsome boy, isn’t he? What’s his name? How old is he? What breed is he? They’re amazing, aren’t they? May I stroke him? Aww, he’s gorgeous. Do you love him very much? He’ll get you to Sainsbury’s if you tell him to, won’t he? Is he a babe-magnet? Aww, he’s gorgeous. I bet you spoil him rotten, don’t you? I know I’m not supposed to feed him, but may I give him some of my sandwich? Will he tell you that you’re at your bus stop? Aww, he’s gorgeous.”

At first, this was fairly pleasing. Then it became routine. Then tedious. Then irritating. Then extremely annoying. I went from happily engaging in pleasant conversations, to being merely polite, to being obviously grumpy, to displaying overt annoyance. I think, although I can’t be sure, that I managed to avoid swearing at anyone. Out loud that is.

Yes, the dogs are cute, and yes, they know that they’re cute, and they adore the fuss. In fact, I’m convinced that some fiendish genetic engineer, no doubt closeted in some subterranean laboratory in deepest, darkest Over Wallop, has caused every guide dog to have the vanity gene found in cats. But these inquisitions are not only inconvenient for humans, but they are distracting for dogs. It’s bad enough when all of this happens in a queue. But when random people approach while one is walking down the street, thus interrupting a journey, and possibly making one late for an appointment, it is not only deeply irritating, but highly discourteous. And as I said, it can distract the dog, which in turn can have consequences ranging from the frustrating to the dangerous. People need to stop it. immediately.

I’m sure, dear reader that you will now understand that a guide dog would not be better for me than a cane. People would raise my blood pressure beyond acceptable limits, the treatment of which would put an unnecessary strain on both the National Health Service, and the public purse. Now, would you really want that on your conscience?

I’m both a confident and a competent cane user. Other people are not, and are much happier with a guide dog. People need to stop making assumptions and passing judgments, and to start minding their own business. They must let the guide dog owners get on with their lives unmolested, and get over their disappointment that canes are neither cute nor cuddly.

Oh yes. I nearly forgot to tell you what the silly answer to the silly question was. With the light off.

One response to “Guide Dogs And Englishmen”

  1. I love it. My sentiments exactly.


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    Liked by 1 person

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