My little red tether is my anchor in running with my friends. A beautiful guide dog has been my tether/anchor in mobility and independence for 17 years: 1. Pantera 2. Cricket, and now my beautiful 3. Georgina (Georgie). A life of family and friends is my joy and anchor in life.

The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it. CC Scott

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kindness Counts

I was recently at a conference and there was an individual that interrupted my friend and I and started quizzing me on what service this dog was for, reached out and started petting Cricket, grabbed my books, etc ... Anyway, my friend was appalled at the multiple boundaries he had crossed in our short interaction. True, indeed. As we talked about it over lunch, I told her that every once in a while we do encounter someone like this, but they are the exception and most likely cross boundaries in their interactions with people with or without a dog.

I believe most of the time, it is someone genuinely with questions about how a dog can perform such an incredible work. I am happy to answer questions about my guide dog - how she works and is able to help me be safe - it is pretty amazing. I also enjoy educating and helping people understand the importance of respecting the guide when they are working, talking to the handler and not the dog, and realize this is an ongoing process. Although I work with a guide daily, for many people meeting us is their first interaction with a guide dog. And yes, that does not give them the right to invade our space ... but does lend to my trying to be patient and kind.

I also began to share with my friend many examples of the kindness of people in their interactions with me as a guide dog handler. How often I hear - that is a beautiful dog, but I know she will work best if I don't pet her (thank you!). My yoga studio is moving this Saturday and I was so touched by the owner/instructor who came up to me and asked when she could give me and Cricket a tour of the new studio so that when we came on the first lesson there we would feel comfortable. I was so touched that in the busyness of their moving and getting settled in their new studio she would think to offer that invite to me. Or, the classmate at yoga (don't know who it was) came up to me and offered to help me get my belongings amongst the crowd of people. It is a gift to see the kindness of others ... those little acts of kindness mean so much.

I laughed my friend then leaned over and said you have something on your shirt -- would you like to know that? YES! I appreciate the kindness of those who tell me if there is something I am not aware of ... What act of kindness have you appreciated today?


s day said...

I had a new comment on my blog today from a friend of a friend. The comment was so kind and supportive and it really meant a lot that this total stranger would take time out of her day to say such nice things to me!

You're always seeing the silver lining Becky and you're our greatest example of positive thinking:)

Mimi and CC Cabana said...

It's great how you give people the benefit of the doubt--sometimes it's so hard to do that!! But I think you're right that people aren't trying to be rude or clueless. They just don't know better--but that's so hard to remember. How awe-inspiring that you see yourself as an educator.

That was very nice of the yoga studio owner.

I recently came across a blog I think you might enjoy, Becky. I hope you'll check it out when you have a chance!

Steve said...

Shannon - A comment can brighten a day! Happy to hear. You know I am inspired by your blog (and you!)
Mimi - I will go check out that blog. Thank you and for your kind comments.

Natalie | The Bobby Pin said...

The free cupcakes in the breakroom and my husband making me breakfast.

Becky said...

The Steve comment was from me. We are having computer challenges at our house and was on his computer.
Natalie - sounds kind, yummy and sweet.

Clive said...

Hi Becky

Great post. The act of kindness that amazed us today - the wonderful parcel that arrived from doggie friends in the UK with lots of goodies for Clive. Our friends were helping their local dog charity as well as the gifts came from Dogs Trust UK. We are always and delighted at the kindness of others.

We posted the other day about having people pet and distract Clive as well while he is out working - I guess you have to hope a lot of time they just don't realise, as you say.

Anonymous said...

Today was an awful day with me and my white cane on our merry way to Wal-mart. Someone honked at me when I was crossing the road, succeeding in distracting me terribly. As I'm wandering around the median, about 30, (no joke) cars were pulling over to help me. I wanted to cry both out of sheer frustration and because that simple act touched me so deeply. One man and woman who work at the restaurant my mom, her boyfriend and I always frequent happened to be one of those cars and they gave me a ride to the store.

You're so kind, Becky. I find that sometimes it's so difficult for me to try and step into that other person's shoes, but today was a great example. Instead of waving my cane at the car and threatening to bash his lights in, I tried to put myself behind that wheel. Not many people are aware that honking at a blind or visually impaired person will more than likely distract rather than help them. It's a bit different than boundary crossing, but the same in the fact that there are just some people out there that must be educated.

I love reading your blog. I'm working on getting a guide dog too! I just submitted my application a week ago and had the first part of my phone interview on Friday. I'm going with guide dogs for the blind. I have a blog detailing my progress.

I really really apologize if this looks like a promotion. I'm just so excited and want to share my experience with any guide dog user out there. *blushes and ducks head* I promise I'm not just reading this so I can comment and promote. I truly enjoy it.

Becky said...

Clive - your post on education is excellent and so important for others to understand your incredible work and you need to be able to focus on it!
Samara - I am so excited to follow your journey in applying for a guide dog! Wow, your experience sounds so frustrating - glad it had a positive outcome. You are so right and another important thing for others to understand. Thanks for your comment.

Lisa, Ellie and Hosta said...

Have I told you recently I SO appreciate your blog. You always seem to turn the most frustrating things into something so positive! It's really convicting (in the best possible way)!

Becky said...

Lisa -thank you ... you are so kind :D

Anonymous said...

Oh, nothing in particular, but an act of kindness was done yesterday. I was at a shopping centre when I was getting up from a chair, and Troy's harness got caught on the frame. The chair fell backwards so someone had to pick the chair up so me and Troy could walk between two tables to leave the food court. A nice lady picked up the handle of the harnes and showed me where it was. I quickly moved my hand back as the lady was showing me the handle in her hand, and said "thank you" as I felt the handle as it dropped to Troy's back again. I then told the group of people around me (including the lady who was part of the little group helping me out), that I was just making sure the handle wasn't caught on anything else as I picked the handle up after it dropped to Troy's back. I was trying to hide the fact that I didn't need her to pick the harness handle up, and also hiding from Troy that anything had happened, so he wouldn't get confused about anything being done to his harness. He was a little trooper! He accepted what was going on around him very gracefully and was extremely well-behaved, considering at other times he would have tried to lounge at people for an excited hello greeting. Yesterday he showed off his professionalism wonderfully!

What I think it taught many people is that it's ok to help a guide dog team, provided the person(s) don't try to distract the dog at the same time, and if the dog gets distracted of his own accord, then to just allow the handler to interact with him, so the dog behaves himself professionally much more quickly. Also, I notice many people make the mistake of assuming that a guide dog in harness is robotic, so very impecable and statue-like. That's just not true! There is a high standard and a certain amount of strictness with the service dogs as we know already, but Troy doesn't have to be a statue! He can wag his tail, he can fidget around, pace on the spot etc. The problem is when he uses these movements and other body language to purposely invite attention as opposed to just being a dog who's expressing himself despite being professional in his harness if you know what I mean. So that's what I think many people learned yesterday. I guess you could say that in turn for their act of kindness to me, I did an act of kindness by educating them about guide dogs and debunking a few misconceptions!

There is just one person I know who doesn't understand this yet. I'm still working on this person to realise that guide dogs aren't robots in harness, they're just concentrating really hard. And if it's really cruel for me to apparently not allow this person or others to pat Troy while he's on duty, then why are there so many successful service dogs out there?