A word for the “seeing-eye” dog
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“Allowing guide dogs with the blind is a right, not a privilege.’
The above quote was from a letter sent to the Today Magazine, a popular daily paper in Singapore, from Mr. Alvan Yap, an avid reader who raised concerns about public eateries in Singapore being allowed to decide if guide dogs be allowed on their premises, dependent on the comfort level of their customers. He expresses in the letter sentiment that this would encourage those running such eateries to become closed to idea of allowing these furry guides on the premises.
I definitely understand and echo these concerns.
Such a debate brings to mind that knowledge and education about what guide dogs actually do
is necessary to foster empathy and understanding for them, and those who require their companionship. Many are unaware of exactly how important these little heroes are to the visually challenged. They have no idea of what these animals actually do to provide help to those they guide.
The marrying of needs is required at some point. We cannot discount the concerns of those who manage public eateries or other public areas like libraries. A solution would be to find ways for them to get round the difficulties accomodate these necessary “seeing eyes.”
Why eateries and public areas reject guide dogs
Those who run public places do have valid concerns when rejecting guide dogs on their premises, so it is up to them and those who own these dogs to understand, and on their level, manage what causes these concerns. If all are willing, guide dogs, who will be there only for a short time, can blend into these public areas well.
The top concern of eateries and public areas that disallow guide dogs on the premises would be hygiene. Pets will need to defecate at some point, which is quite a source of consternation where eateries are concerned. Customers may also have allergic reactions to the hair of the dogs.
There is assurance that these animals are certified and deemed hygienic for entrance into an area like a cafe, which will likely not for really extended periods of time. If any customers are allergic to these animals, they can always choose to be seated where they are not in close proximity with them.
Dogs cause fear in people for various reasons. The comfort level of those who patronize public areas will be paramount for those who run them.
Yet again, if a person has a fear of dogs, he or she can choose not to sit near those who are handling them. A point to note is that these guide dogs are too well-trained to inspire fear. Besides knowing how to approach people in public, most of them will have calm and even temperaments.
Lack of interaction
Guide dogs are rejected in public areas because many have not interacted with them and do not know how well these fine creatures behave. Guide dogs are gentle companions which seldom have any aggressive tendencies.
Handlers can encourage people to interact with their dogs in controlled settings to help them understand how sociable these animals can be and allay their fears.
Lack of exposure to a guide dog’s work
Those who run public areas will reject dogs in large part because they do not fully understand exactly what they do, which this article will go into in greater detail.
With greater knowledge comes greater understanding. If the scope of a guide dog’s work is properly documented, it would help many understand how well trained they have to be, and are. Governing authorities could step in to produce posters and pamphlets to outline a guide dog’s work. It promotes a more inclusive society.
Public eateries would reject guide dogs because they fear their customers being put off by barking noises.
Again, guide dogs are highly trained and know what to do at the right time. If anyone is uncomfortable around a dog, they can choose not to sit near it.
So, what exactly does a guide dog do?
Guide dogs serve, literally, as the eyes of those who cannot see. A good guide dog “sees” and helps a visually challenged person walk ahead, turn sharp corners or navigate stairs. Here is a list of what it is they do., to promote better clarity.
They keep to the routes that their handlers are supposed to travel and are trained to ignore distractions like smells.
They maintain a steady pace for their handlers and are just ahead of them when walking.
They stop at curbs and intersections until told to proceed.
They move in directions given by the handler and stop on command.
They guide their handlers up and down stairs, and stop at the top and bottom until told to move on.
They bring handlers in and out of elevators, and to elevator buttons.
They are to lie quietly when a handler is settled and seated. (This is why there should be no fear of their misbehavior or noise).
They help a handler board buses and public transport.
Obey set verbal commands
Disobey those that will be disadvantageous to their handlers.
Why are guide dogs important to those who need them?
Guide dogs are absolutely vital to those who need them. Disallowing their presence equates disallowing and not being inclusive of someone who physically challenged or in need.
They ensure mobility.
Those who require “seeing eye dogs” need them because they enable simple moves from one location to another, something which the rest of us do easily. They help a visually challenged person move just a little further ahead and in many cases, more.
They ensure safety.
To reiterate just how well-trained these animals are, they are trained in selective disobedience. They are told disobey any of their handler’s commands if they can see that it brings them into the path of imminent danger.
A sensible animal like this would hardly be a hazard to those around him in a restaurant.
They provide companionship.
These dogs perform necessary functions, but are pets like any other when off duty. They provide the necessary companionship their owners and handlers need.
They can run simple errands.
Where necessary, these dogs can help their handlers run errands, if prior arrangements are made. They are able to go to stores, perhaps, with a little basket and list of things their handlers need. All the already informed store owner needs to do is to help to fill it up.
They provide independence.
They provide their visually challenged handlers with much needed independence. With their help, their owners can get to anywhere, at any time and very much do anything!
The “seeing eye” dog is a valuable companion to those who need him. Allowing him in public areas would be promoting greater societal inclusion.
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