Transitioning From One Guide Dog to Another

Charli Saltzman

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Would it be a German shepherd, a golden retriever, or another lab? Would I get a little girl, or would they give me another boy? My sister and I would excitedly talk about possible breeds and perfect dog names. These were the questions that played over and over again in my mind as I anxiously awaited the day when I could return to the Seeing Eye for my second guide dog. Completing that transition from one dog to another wasn’t all that difficult, but it did bring about some challenges.

First of all, the personality difference between my previous dog Errol and my current dog Joba was interesting. I was used to a dog that didn’t really like to play, that would be calm and let you sit and pet him, and a dog that would walk as slow as he possibly could. In contrast, I received Joba. He was hyper, always wanted to play, never slowed down, and wouldn’t sit long enough to let me pet him. Oh, and let’s not forget about his very opinionated personality. He’s definitely not afraid to be vocal. Errol was an angel when it came to being groomed. Joba, on the other hand, wasn’t going to have it. Errol never chewed up my belongings, but Joba was good at destroying things by chewing. So how did I get passed the differences and still realize that he was a great working dog?

Instructors tell those of us returning that we must do our best to think of each dog as our first dog. If we are constantly comparing are first dog to our second dog, we are going to hold our current dog to an unfair standard. We have to let go of what we knew about our first dogs to be able to work with our second dogs. It was hard not to compare my two dogs, but I still managed to bond wonderfully with Joba. Besides, Joba is a wonderful worker. He loves to go on walks, and he is always aiming to please me. I have had people tell me that, when Joba is walking with me, he looks like he has a smile on his face. This always makes me feel good.

Some people who have lost their first guide dogs are unsure if they would be able to get another guide dog. They say they don’t feel they could ever love another dog like they loved their first dog. I can understand that, but my response is always this. Love is one of those things that has no limits. Just because you decide to get another dog, that doesn’t mean you don’t still love your first guide dog. It just means that you are making more room, allowing yourself to expand your love to yet another companion. Besides, wouldn’t your dog want you to be happy? I don’t feel like I love Errol any less than I love Joba. I love them equally. And, when I go back to get my third dog in the future as I know I will, I am going to love that dog just as much.

Transitioning from one guide to another isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it can be completely heartbreaking. There were a few days when I cried my eyes out because I suddenly felt like I didn’t know what I was doing. One of these times was when I was attempting to walk home from the bus stop. I had only been home from New Jersey with Joba for a week, and I decided it was time to introduce him to the bus system. Well, we made it up to the bus stop perfectly fine, and the trip downtown and back went well. However, when we got back to the bus stop at my apartment complex, somehow we took a wrong turn and wondered out into an unfamiliar street. I couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be such an easy route. Errol never had trouble with it, but then I remembered. This is Joba, not Errol. Joba doesn’t know this route very well. We made it back eventually, but it was a good learning experience for both of us even though it was frustrating.

This has been my experience thus far. I have no idea what will happen next. Working with guide dogs always brings about wonderful and new experiences. I am thankful to be a part of such a wonderful school such as the Seeing Eye. They know how to provide the perfect match.

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