Written by guest blogger Susan Krieger
originally posted October, 2015
I am happy to contribute to the “Growing Up Guide Pup” blog. I am a sociologist and a writer. I teach at Stanford University in the Program in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. For the past twelve years, I have shared my life with two guide dogs. I received my first guide dog, Teela, from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2003. My second, current guide dog, Fresco, came to live with us in 2013. Teela, who is still with me after retiring, is a Golden Retriever-yellow Labrador cross and very playful as well as having been a lively conscientious guide for me for ten years. Fresco is a more serious soul, a yellow Labrador Retriever and an excellent and responsive guide, showing grace and skill immediately. My partner and I live in San Francisco, California, in a house bursting at the seams with two large guide dogs, a small black poodle, and two cats.
I wish here to convey to the Growing Up Guide puppy raisers how grateful I am to you for raising guide dog puppies. By the time I, or any blind person, receives a guide dog, the dogs are obedient, quiet, responsive, willing to go anywhere, adept in following instructions, friendly with all sorts of people, gentle with children, well-mannered, toilet trained to relieve on cue, adaptable in any environment and in jumping into cars on command, always eager to get out and lead, cautious when walking through dangerous places or on uneven ground, wanting never to mislead, always wishing to be out and about, and loving and affectionate toward their blind person.
"Were it not for the committed, conscientious, loving work that goes into the raising of guide dog puppies by so many wonderful puppy raisers, I would not have these gifts."
The past twelve years of my life have been enhanced beyond my wildest expectation by having a guide dog with me. Teela was my first guide and highly suited to me. I often worry as we walk along streets, thinking about what I must do next, trying to resolve problems in my mind. Teela always reminded me that we need to have a good time on our walks as we get from here to there, that we need to pay attention to curbs and the many street crossings but we also need to leave time to play. Fresco, too, has been extremely conscientious in making sure that he is guiding me safely as he races to the next curb and puts on his brakes. He has an excellent memory for every store we have ever stopped into, and any office or destination, and leads me meticulously. Yet he lets me know, too, that he is a dog and needs to enjoy his strong sense of smell, so we take breaks where he can nose around. The two dogs have also enriched my life by playing together when at home, lying close to each other, developing a bond that is as important to them as each dog is to me.
Were it not for the committed, conscientious, loving work that goes into the raising of guide dog puppies by so many wonderful puppy raisers, I would not have these gifts. You open your lives to the little wiggly pups who, I imagine, must be a handful for a very long time. Were it not for all of your hard work and loving care, I would not have these beautiful beings who have so enhanced my life and made it safe.
Here is an excerpt from my new book, Come, Let Me Guide You: A Life Shared with a Guide Dog, to give you a sense of the debt I feel to all of you. This book covers the entire ten-year span of my working life with Teela, discusses other relationships in my life that have been enriched and supported by our bond, and describes, as well, the introduction of Fresco into our joint life.
From Come, Let Me Guide You: A Life Shared with a Guide Dog by Susan Krieger (Purdue University Press, 2015):
Over the years, Teela has been with me in countless restaurants, springing up from under the table if I drop a napkin or move a leg in any way that suggests I am getting up—eager always to let me know that she is ready for my next step. She has been with me in restrooms, in ladies’ dressing rooms, doctor’s offices, and mammogram exams. She visited my mother with me when my mother was dying. She has sat at my feet on airplane rides despite her wishes to “get off the bus” and always looking toward the front door. She has lain beside me in the bathroom in the morning when I am taking a shower, cleaning herself on the bath mat, then giving me a quick lick as I draw the curtain and step out.
She has stood with me on corners in busy downtown San Francisco as taxi cabs pass us by, seemingly unaware of the indignity I have felt. She has climbed countless staircases with me and slowed beside me on the way down as I worry about my footing. …She has greeted every person I have asked her to greet with as much enthusiasm as if this person were her long-lost and most special friend. She has waited to take treats from my hand until I say to her, “Take it.” It is a trick we have: ignore the treat, turn your face away from it, and eventually you will get it. She has lain in her bed patiently, then come to her dinner bowl when called and sat poised before it waiting until I give her the command, “Okay,” it is now time to eat. She once ingested an eight-inch long piece of electrical cable, and once a full bar of Dove soap—each of which I later found in her stool and then swore to myself that I would never let her do that again—though, with her nose down as we walk and my limited sight, she has eaten many things I do not want to know about.
She has slowed her pace for me on hiking paths so that I would not trip and sped up for me on city streets when I have wanted to go quickly to do errands and to get my exercise. She has led me to the pet store many more times than I have thought we should go and with great exuberance and glee. She has eaten red valerian and other potent weeds that grow in cracks on sidewalks and sometimes in our back yard. When she was a puppy, she ate all the strawberries on the bushes in her puppy raisers’ garden. She has greeted her puppy raisers, when they came to visit, with her old wiggling joy, which made them happy to feel that she was “still the same dog.”
Thank you for raising guide dog puppies such as Teela and Fresco. For more information about the book, please visit my website, Come, Let Me Guide You website; to order, visit Come, Let Me Guide You on Amazon.