Gail and her dog, Sam are waiting for the traffic to clear so that they can cross the street.Gail is in a hurry, yet she stands patiently waiting for Sam to decide when they should cross.Would you let your dog decide when you should cross the street? You would if you were blind and your dog was a specially trained guide dog.
Most guide dogs for the blind are German Shepherds, but just any German shepherd won’t do. The people who train guide dogs select only the most alert and intelligent to do this work. And, most important the dog must be one that does not become easily excited or angered.
When a dog has been selected the complicated training begins. Dogs that are going to become guide dogs have to go to school. They go to a very special school, where they are trained to do very special work. The dog’s trainer holds onto a leather-covered handle attached to the dog’s harness. The dog is taught to walk close to the trainer’s legs at about the speed that a man usually walks.
The blind person who is going to have the dog attends the school too. He practices with the dog and the two begin to be friends. By holding tightly to the handle, a blind person learns to fell from the dog’s movements where and when to walk.It takes a little while before a blind person feels sure that he can trust his guide dog to be his eyes and protect his life. But soon they become close friends.
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When Sam comes to a curb, he stops to let Gail step up or down carefully. When there is a hole or an object in the way, Sam leads Gail around it. At an intersection Sam pays no attention to the traffic light. Not because he careless but because dogs can’t tell one color from another. Instead of being trained to watch the lights, Sam has been taught to watch the traffic and not to cross the street until it is safe to do so.
This is one of the hardest parts of the guide dog’s job. At a busy intersection, things are always happening. Cars come from all directions. Sam has learned to tell when there is enough time for him and Gail to cross. Sam also knows how tall Gail is. When a branch is low enough to hit her, Sam leads Gail around it-out of danger.
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Sam’s work as a guide makes him very important to Gail. The dog does her seeing for her. He makes it possible for her to go places and do things without help from other people. But Sam is more than Gail’s guide. He’s a friend and companion. He even picks up things that she has dropped.