Ladner-based B.C. Guide Dogs is using International Guide Dog Day, which is celebrated today, to dispel some common myths about guide dogs.
Here are 10 misconceptions:
1. Guide dogs can read traffic lights.
A guide dog will lead its blind partner to a curb, then sit and wait for further instructions. The guide dog user will listen to traffic to decide when it is safe to cross.
2. Guide dogs never get to play.
Like humans, guide dogs have time to work and play. When they are not wearing their harness, guide dogs are like regular, wellbehaved pets - they have fun!
3. Guide dogs know where to go.
The guide dog understands commands like "forward," "find the stairs" or "left" and "right" but it is up to the guide dog user to direct the dog. Often the guide dog user will learn routes in advance by asking a sighted person or ask passersby along the way.
4. Having a guide dog in a restaurant is a health code violation.
By law, a guide dog may accompany its user anywhere, including restaurants.
5. All guide dog users are completely blind.
Only 10 per cent of all legally blind persons are totally blind. Most can see light, shapes or movement.
6. Guide dogs are paid for by the government.
B.C. Guide Dogs relies on individual and corporate donations to cover the $37,000 cost of training each guide dog. The guide dog user only pays $1.
7. Any dog can be trained to become a guide dog.
It takes a special dog with a particular personality to make a great guide dog. B.C. Guide Dogs carefully breeds its own puppies based on good health and temperament.
8. A blind person will only need one guide dog over his/her lifetime.
A healthy guide dog can work up to eight years before retirement, which means a blind person may need four or five replacement guide dogs in his/her lifetime.
9. Retired guide dogs are taken away from their blind partner.
In most cases, a retired guide dog stays with its partner as a pet. Otherwise, the dog is adopted by a carefully screened family.
10. It's OK to pet a guide dog when it is working.
It is best to ignore a guide dog when it is working. Any distractions may put both the dog and blind person in danger.
© Copyright 2013