Guide Dogs Never Get a Day Off

Photo of Beth and her previous seeing eye dog Harper making their way through a shoveled, tunnel-like path.

The snow this week has a lot of people asking me if my dog Whitney likes being out in winter weather. Truth is, she doesn’t have much choice. Poor guide dogs, they never get a day off work!

The snow started falling in Chicago Sunday night, and it’s still coming down this morning. Snowy weather is often more time-consuming, more physically and mentally tiring and can be more dangerous than traveling in good weather.

When I was a kid, I thought it was magical the way snowfall muffled the sound around you. I still do. But my walks with Whitney this week won’t be the magic I’m looking for. Enough snow fell last night to mask the audible cues I use to navigate the city. Commuters who can see will be trudging through the Loop (downtown Chicago’s business district) with their heads down to avoid the snow pelting their faces. This would be fine if they all had dogs like mine to guide them, but they don’t! Whitney will be on her own, weaving me around the blinded commuters in our path.

And that’s not all: Snow has accumulated between the raised, circular bumps I’ve come to rely on to tell me we’re at the edge of a curb ramp, so I won’t always be sure where we are.

“Stay home!” friends and family tell me. Easy for them to say, but some of us have to go to work! And then there’s this: We live on the seventh floor of an apartment building, and Whitney needs to get out and “empty” every once in a while. Not to mention, get some exercise.

Eyebrows up! All I have to do on days like this is take a deep breath and remember what trainers drummed into our heads when my blind peers and I were first learning to work with our guides: Trust your dog. Hold on tight to Whitney’s harness, and follow her lead. “Whitney, forward!”

Check out these tips on how to stay safe in winter weather conditions


 

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