Working the crowd

Another feature of university life that is different from college is the number of large open spaces we have to deal with on a daily basis and the fact that these spaces invariably have crowds in them. The crowds can range from a huge mass of people waiting for the start of a lecture, to a number of smaller groups gathered in certain areas.

Now I can imagine, with a certain amount of horror, just how difficult such situations would be to deal with were I using a cane. It would likely involve a lot of drifting from a straight line, probably some poor students with hurt ankles as the cane found them and a high probability of me perhaps hitting a wall or two. Honestly folks my cane skills aren’t that bad, but open spaces, combined with my tendency to drift slightly is just never a great mix.

However, since I have Commando, what actually happens is as follows.

Commando keeps a watchful eye on his environment. If he sees a large crowd then he’ll slow, to give himself some more time to work out how to pick his way through it. If, as was the case a few days ago, we have a number of mini crowds in our path, then he’ll do what I really think he loves to do and slalom his way through them, weaving around people, pillars and small couches which were all in our path. He will then proceed nicely to our end destination, all the time never breaking stride and keeping me nice and straight. It truly is something when he starts weaving around obstacles. I vividly remember him doing it on our first solo outing on bin day, which was featured in this very blog. I’m quite sure that Commando actually enjoys himself when he gets to do it. What’s really impressive however, is how he does it without me needing to say a word. HE spots the problem, figures out how to get through and then just goes for it.

On one or two occasions, Commando has become somewhat transfixed in the crowd, just following it along, and consequently missing a turn. I usually realise when he’s doing this though, as I have a reasonable idea of when we should be turning. So a quick flick on the harness handle and a command to find the direction we need is usually all it takes to snap him out of it, and have him doubling back to get us back on track.

As much as he’s keen to get me where I need to be, he still won’t take unnecessary risks though. A couple of days ago we were coming home from the high street and we encountered a couple of situations where we didn’t have crowds or obstacles as such, but we had some slow moving foot traffic. One occasion was an older person using a walking aid. Commando simply slowed his pace to match the person in front, and continued at this speed until he found a safe way for us to get past. At which point our usual speed resumed. Then a little later, we encountered some slow moving children, likely on their way to school. This time Commando obviously couldn’t see any way around them, so we simply remained at our slow pace until we reached the turn we needed to get to our street.

Situations like this show not only how fortunate we guide dog owners are to have our dogs to help us, but also just how well guide dogs are trained. Theoretically, in the situations with the slow moving people, Commando, who loves to move quickly, could have simply tried to move out onto the road and go around them. Of course, I wouldn’t have let him, but the thought never even crosses his mind. He, like every other guide dog, knows that roads are potentially dangerous and so staying on the path whenever possible is the best option, even if it does mean that for a few minutes you’re moving at a crawl.


Ted, 7:57pm Wed 25 Mar 2015:

Commando knows the old saying lest haste more speed. Happy Easter to you both.

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Craig And Commando

Craig is in his early thirties and he is completely blind. His blog details the day-to-day adventures he experiences with his first guide dog, Commando.

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