Tag Archives: assistance animals

I Wont Distract You!

Yesterday, I was traveling up on the escalators at London Victoria underground station with my guide dog Trigger, when the following incident took place:

Man a couple of steps above me, speaking directly to Trigger,
“I know you are a working guide dog so I wont disturb you”.
Me, “thank you”.
Man, (looking directly at Trigger, “I wont distract you”, at which Trigger wags his tail and becomes rather distracted!

The above incident is, on one level comical. The comedy arising from the man in question doing precisely what he said he wouldn’t do, namely distract my working guide dog! However the actions of this gentleman where potentially dangerous and (not to put too fine a point on it, stupid)!

Guide dogs are trained to assist visually impaired people to navigate safely around streets, roads etc. They do wonderful work. However they are, when all is said and done dogs, who love attention and who can, when given it, become distracted.

I am very happy (when Trigger is not working) for him to receive strokes and cuddles (provided the person giving the attention has asked first). I rarely refuse a request to pet Trigger. However it is my absolute right to give such a refusal and the stupidity (albeit unintentional) of the gentleman in question had the potential to put my safety (and that of others) in danger. For example had Trigger pulled forward to reach the gentleman I might have fallen putting myself and those behind me, on the escalator at risk.

Fortunately the overwhelming majority of people behave responsibly around guide dogs. I only wish that everyone did so.


Can I ask you a daft question?

Being a guide dog owner brings with it many advantages, (the companionship of a wonderful brindle Labrador/retriever and a highly effective mobility tool being 2 of the most obvious).

During my social and working life I am asked many questions regarding how guide dogs work, most of which are perfectly reasonable. I always answer such queries as its important that people understand the vital role played by guide dogs in enhancing the independence of visually impaired people. I am however sometimes flabbergasted by the daft questions put to me.

I have lost count of the number of occasions when a question along the following lines has been asked, “so does your dog go to work with you?”

I recently came across a variant on the above query. An acquaintance, being aware that I was traveling to Liverpool to visit my mum asked, “so does Trigger (my guide dog) go to Liverpool with you?”

I am known for my dry (some would say sarcastic) sense of humour. Consequently I am highly tempted to reply along the following lines, “no, he will stay in London for the 7 days I shall be in Liverpool. Don’t worry I shall leave him enough food and water to cover my absence. I am, however a little concerned that my home might be rather messy on my return …!”.

I do, however bite my sharp tongue and respond that the whole purpose of a guide dog is to act as a mobility tool. Consequently Trigger goes everywhere with me (the UK Equalities Act makes it an offence for a provider of goods or services to discriminate against a person for a reason related to their disability.

As a guide (or other assistance animal) is necessary to the independence of many disabled people, the Act makes it an offence for restaurants and other establishments to refuse to admit a disabled person when accompanied by their working assistance animal).

I shall continue to smile and patiently explain about the role of guide dogs when confronted by silly questions while, all the time furiously biting my sarcastic tongue …

Please Do Not Distract

While out for a walk with my guide dog, Trigger earlier today a lady began to stroke him while he was guiding me past a car which was, rather inconveniently parked on the pavement. I smiled and said,

“I don’t mind you stroking my dog, but please don’t do so while he is working as it could put both me and my dog in danger”.

The lady apologised and I continued on my way.

Unfortunately the above incident is far from being an isolated occurance. I have experienced people attempting to pet Trigger while in the midst of crossing a busy London road, which could have had disastrous consequences for both him and I.

As I said to the lady this morning, I have no objection to people stroking my guide dog. However the bottom line is to use common sense. By distracting a working guide dog the person responsible runs the risk of causing the animal to lose concentration. This could result in the owner becoming intimately acquainted with a lamp post or the bumper of a large lorry, not something which anyone wants to have on their conscience.

There is a good short piece on GDBA’s website on tips for approaching a guide dog owner. The golden rule, as set out in that piece is to always ask and not assume that speaking to or petting the dog is OK. As a guide dog owner I will, in most instances readily agree to a request to fuss Trigger. He works hard and deserves to be stroked, cuddled and generally loved. However, when working attention given to a guide dog can be highly dangerous so, please ask before approaching any assistance dogs.

For the article on GDBA’s website please visit, (https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/microsites/sponsor-a-puppy/blogs/2015/april/ever-wondered-how-to-approach-a-guide-dog-and-their-owner#.VWHdu0YrggQ).