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Seeing Eye: No Harness Needed

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Jared Wright is a college student who is blind. He seeks greater independence through the use of a dog guide, and is currently attending The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, to accomplish that. This feature details his experiences and reflections throughout his training. His dog is a male cross between a yellow Labrador and a golden retriever named Kerry.

Dogs will be dogs. No matter how detailed the training, no matter how precise the tactics, dogs will still be dogs. Kerry’s nose will always need watching in a place like Taco Bell, where I grabbed a bite to eat, tonight. There’s always the chance he’ll decide to grab that morsel of tortilla that had haphazardly drifted down to the floor, joining itself to the cacophony of smells that shine like the sun to a dog’s nose. I’ll always have to keep a proverbial eye out for Kerry paying too much attention to a squirrel running around campus and ensure that he stays focused on the task at hand and not what his instincts tell him is important.

All of these inherent drawbacks to a canine come packaged, however, with everything about a dog that make them so widely domesticated and cherished. If I leave the room even for a minute, I return to an excited Kerry, tail wagging hard enough to knock over small children. I might even get a sloppy doggie kiss if I’m lucky. Sitting on the floor playing tug of war or throwing a tennis ball for Kerry is a far greater way to kill five minutes than most other pastimes. And I won’t bother trying to describe my reaction to him walking over to me, lying down, and curling up with his head resting peacefully on my foot as he drifts off for a nap. Any attempt I could make would fall pitifully short of its mark.

Think of every reason why a dog is man’s best friend. If you have a canine companion, reflect for a moment on the joy you take out of them nuzzling your hand or chewing contentedly on a bone while you just smile down at them. Take a moment to remember all those times you sit in fascination as your pup twitches in his dreams, no doubt running, digging, and partaking in the most sought after forms of doggie entertainment. There’ve been times when Kerry’ll even give a slight yip in his sleep, no doubt a full bark in whatever dream he’s experiencing. Now imagine being around your dog and taking pleasure in those most special of moments 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I’ve always had dogs in my household since the day I was born. I knew I’d bond with Kerry, and most likely it would happen very quickly. I knew we’d end up being fast friends and more than just the professional partners that we are when he’s in harness. But there is a special something that happens between you and any other living thing when you spend so much time talking to him, touching him, living with him. Kerry is the first person that I talk to when I wake up. Kerry is the last person I talk to when I go to sleep. He is at my feet during every meal. He lies next to my chair through every class. Even today, while I was practicing hand drum technique, Kerry was staring inquisitively at why I was hitting this huge cylinder over and over again.

Today I met up with an old friend with whom I had lost touch over the summer. We’d shared a couple phone conversations, but we both had been very busy and hadn’t actually spent any time together. After he went his way and I went mine, I was walking back to my fraternity house. It was a route I’d taken many times and passed through a large lawn of sorts in the center of campus. At this time everyone was off on a variety of errands, and the place was deserted. It is a good place to go if you want to just collect your thoughts or do a bit of inner pondering. Those rare times I want to be alone, that’s usually a serviceable spot for it.

But while passing through this expanse of grass that I’d walked alone on so many times, it hit me. Complete solitude is a thing of the past. There will always be a four-legged friend with me. And it’s continuously astounding to have worry ebb away when scratching behind Kerry’s ears. It’s amazing how stress just evaporates when I’m focused on giving Kerry the ferocious belly rubs he so enjoys. If I’m not careful, Kerry’s guiding just might end up a secondary benefit. And when carelessness is this fulfilling and this reassuring, throwing caution to the winds seems all too reasonable.

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