Cary, North Carolina
Sometimes Eyes Have a Cold Nose
There is no disputing the benefits of walking – walking increases cardiovascular health, reduces the chance of developing heart disease, lowers blood pressure and helps with stress management. Now imagine you are a person who is blind or visually impaired. Not only does exercise-walking become more difficult but walking for everyday activities, such as going to the grocery store, getting to work, and meeting up with friends, becomes difficult if not impossible.
I knew by the time I was a teenager I wanted to train dog guides for the blind. Becoming a dog guide trainer requires people to complete a three-year apprenticeship. It’s very competitive to get the position (one slot will have 50-100 applicants). During my interview for an apprenticeship slot I was asked, “This job involves walking 8-10 miles a day, are you up to that?” Not only was I “up to that” but it sounded wonderful to me! I always prefer to be active rather than sitting.
I have now been a dog guide trainer for the past 18 years. I’ve trained hundreds of dogs and walked hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. What I love the most about this job is every individual dog is different; I learn something new with every dog I train. There was Caper who was so naughty in puppy placement (he ate the drywall in his puppy raiser’s kitchen), but was one of the easiest dogs I’ve ever trained. He was too smart to be a pet dog, he needed a job. Then there was Natty, whom I affectionally called “Miss Goody Two-Shoes” because she never wanted to do anything wrong. She was the sweetest dog ever and was placed with a woman who is a teacher for kids with disabilities. Then, of course, there was Princeton. He was a male German Shepard and the biggest momma’s boy. I ran into him and his “person” several years after they completed training. He spotted me from across the room and started howling at the top of his lungs. He was loyal.
The world of dog training has changed a lot, and for the better. Now the highest level of training uses positive reinforcement methods. Dogs are regularly referred to as sentient beings or beings that are capable of experiencing a range of feelings and emotions such as joy and depression. Anyone who has owned a dog knows this is true. It’s my hope that one day other animals will also be seen in this light.
Written by Vishnu Priya dd
Disciple of HH Bhaktimarga Swami
Please view our new film, Rolling the Dice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF3legHdMgI