Letting your Dog be your Guide
Today, April 26, 2017 is International Guide Dog Day! Being the second most popular pet in the United States, dogs are a well beloved and cherished member of many families’ households. In fact, most pet owners wouldn’t hesitate to say they couldn’t live without their favorite companions by their side. In the case of the guide dog, this is a far more literal use of the expression.
In 1999, the CDC found that vision problems were among the top 10 issues faced by adults over the age of 18 years old. Today, there are around 3.5 million people either considered legally blind, or possess some form of vision impairment. While it is often stated that in the absence of one sense, the other senses grow in response, it is undeniable that in our information driven world, limited sight can prove a major handicap.
Thankfully, the guide dog has been assisting the visually impaired for over five centuries, ensuring that people could get where they needed to go. Formal schools for the training of such animals were created in the midst of the First World War to assist returning veterans, and have appeared across the world ever since with Labrador Retrievers being utilized as the most popular breed.
The guide dogs primary job, as the name implies, is to assist those individuals with navigating them around obstacle. The owner and dog form an exclusive partnership based around the guidance and communication that is often taken for granted by those with normal vision. This partnership is founded on the dog being directed by the owner and in turn guiding the owner around hazards and challenges to get the individual safety to their destination through dangers such as stairs or cars. The importance of this relationship cannot be stressed enough as the dog depends on the directions and the owner depends on the dogs guidance; both relying on the other to reach their destination. One can scarcely imagine the invaluable service a guide dog provides, especially in urban settings where street curbs and traffic exist as frequent dangers to impaired individuals.
Beyond the most obvious service that a guide dog provides, there is also the less noticeable yet equally important benefit of friendship and support. The companionship provided by your dog whether a guide or not, is immensely beneficial to one’s health. A guide dog is not just a means to get around like a car, but can become like family to an owner: returning their affection and helping to remove stress. In addition, since they assist in one’s mobility, guide dogs allow for encouragement of exercise, which can help individuals lose weight and improve general health.
The importance of these types of dogs cannot be highlighted enough in a single post. Guide dogs are as necessary as air for many people, and as sustaining as any beloved family member. Our four legged friends have lived alongside us for a very long time, and their constant care and companionship will guarantee they will continue to do so.