9 Great Things About Commando

Hello, and welcome back to Guide Dogs Week 2015 blogathon.

Today I thought I’d keep the number 9 theme going, to match the 9 days of Guide Dogs Week of course.  By covering what are in my humble opinion the best 9 things about having Commando in my life.  These are, of course, aside from the freedom and independence that he gives me.  These are my own personal opinions.  If any other guide dog owners would like to submit their own top 9, or feel I’ve missed anything, then please feel free to do so in the comments section.

A smooth ride…

Working with a guide dog will almost certainly always be a smoother experience than working with a long cane.  I could not tell you how many times my cane would become trapped in some paving, or I would find myself drifting slightly left or right without realizing.  But with a guide dog there’s none of that.  Fortunately our dogs never get themselves trapped in between paving stones, and I’ve found that Commando always keeps my course straight and true, with me only drifting left or right if Commando has to avoid something for us.

High vis…

Something I noticed very early on once Commando came into my life was that people seemed to notice me more.  They were far keener to say hello and engage in conversation.  They were even willing to move out of our way when they spotted our approach, even if they were grouped around a bus stop in an otherwise impenetrable and unmovable knot.  I have heard many other guide dog owners comment on this fact, and suspect that it is likely down entirely to the extremely cute dogs who are guiding us, and serve to make us far more noticeable than we appear to be when we’re using canes.

Ice breaker and friend maker…

Along with helping us become more noticeable our dogs also appear to have the ability to draw people to us.  I can only assume that we appear more approachable with a cute dog by our side than with a long cane.  But I have experienced on many occasions Commandos ability to bring people into our sphere, break the ice and make new friends.  Again, I’ll put a lot of this down to Commando rather than to my own sparkling personality.  But perhaps I’m being too hard on myself.  Perhaps it’s more a case of ‘come for the dog, stay for the sparkling conversation and razor sharp wit of the human with him’…

Remember remember…

Something which always impresses me is Commando’s ability to remember routes.  He only needs to do a route once or twice and then it’s a pretty safe bet that he knows where we need to go and how best to get us there.  This is again something else I’ve talked about with other guide dog owners, and it appears to be a trait of most guide dogs, with these route memories lasting for years between routes, which likely puts them ahead of most humans. 

Guardian angel…

When in harness Commando is a professional, working to keep me safe.  But when out of harness he is just as committed to me.  He will often sleep curled up at or on my feet, ensuring that there is no way I can move without him knowing about it.  He will bring his toys over to show me, or as a challenge to a game of tuggy.  But even when he’s not beside me I know that he’s always nearby and if I need him all I have to do is call and he’ll come running, tail wagging, right to me.  With Commando by my side, either out and about, or at home, I know that I’m never alone, and that he’s always looking out for me, ready to help in any way he can.

I guide, therefore I am…

Something I realized very quickly once Commando was in my life was that he has an incredible work ethic.  He loves to be out for a free run, but he loves being out in harness, doing his duty as a guide dog just as much.  He is always thrilled when he knows that we’re going out, or as he would see it going to work.  His tale thumps happily and he wastes no time getting to the door, ready to don his harness.  His enthusiasm is infectious.  Even when I’ve been extremely busy with academic work I’ve always managed to make time to take Commando out on a working walk because I know how much it means to him.  This, in turn, means that I would have to take a break to work Commando, and most likely as a result I was able to get things done with less stress thanks to taking Commando out for a working walk.  Even if he has had a free run he still likes to have a working walk as well.

Seek and he shall find…

I think one of Commando’s most favourite instructions from me is the ‘find’ request.  Be it doors, gates or post boxes, he always seems to take a special joy in leading me directly to what he has been asked to find.  I have noticed on a few occasions that once he finds what we were seeking he seems to hold his nose up at it almost in triumph, clearly very pleased with himself.  Of course, I’m sure the kibble he gets as a reward for a job well done also helps.  But even on those occasions when I haven’t had any kibbles on me, yes folks such a thing does happen every now and then despite my best efforts, Commando is still happy to find anything I ask him to.

The sound of work and play…

When we are working I often marvel at the sounds I hear from Commando.  The jangle of his disc and working collar, to the steady and confident padding of his paws along the footpaths.  It is clear that he is in his element, and I know that because he is taking happy confident strides then so to am I.  Commando works hard, and he plays hard.  When he is in his play collar, out for a free-run, he never fails to put the run into free run.  I often marvel at the sound of the bell on his play collar as it moves quickly from one place to another.  That is when I’m not quickly stepping off to the side, or getting ready to dive and roll out of the way as he either goes sprinting past me, or comes sprinting towards me after I’ve called him back.  I know how hard he works, and it is really a joy to know that he is unwinding, and for lack of a better term just being more dog than guide dog.

That special, indescribable something…

Lastly dear readers, we come to that one thing that in over 3 years I have never been able to fully explain or name.  that something which I felt right from the moment Commando came wagging into my life.  That something which has, from the moment we started our journey, encouraged me to go further, to strive harder, to aim higher.  That feeling that says ‘it can be done, you can do it if you want to’.  I put it down to Commando’s faith, trust and confidence  in me.  Whether it comes somehow from Commando himself, or simply from having him in my life, and placing my total trust in him to keep me safe, to get us where we’re going and back again, or whether it has always been there and it has taken Commando to bring it out.  I just can’t say, but I know that it’s there now, and I’m extremely grateful for it.

So, that brings us to the end of the top 9 things about having a guide dog.  At least from my perspective.  As I mentioned at the beginning, if any other guide dog owners would like to comment or add to this list then I’d certainly love to read your input in the comments section.

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