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Pets Mar 27, 2009 - 3:58 PM

Kinsey (K-9 HEROES)

By Sherry Bennett Warshauer

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Kim T. described to me an experience she had with her guide dog Kinsey:

My guide dog Kinsey and I set out to make the trek from our first class at the university to the second one. We had done this before but it was before the fall semester classes had begun, when traffic on the streets had been minimal. We strolled uneventfully to the corner . This was when things began to fall apart.

Let me make it clear that none of this was Kinsey's fault. It wasn't my fault either, nor the lady who tried to help us.

We needed to cross a particular street to get to our classroom. It is my job to read the traffic by listening to the traffic patterns and determining when it is safe to cross the street; however, for some unknown reason, there was no detectable pattern. It seemed as though no traffic was moving. I was completely puzzled. During a couple of very quiet moments, I did give Kinsey the “forward” command which, if the crosswalk had been clear she would have obeyed immediately. She refused to budge.

After what seemed like forever, a lady came up to us to ask if we needed help. I thanked her for her help and explained that we were trying to cross the street. She informed me there had been an accident in the intersection, which explained why I couldn't determine the traffic patterns. It also explained Kinsey's intelligent disobedience of the “forward command.”

Once safely across the street, I thanked the woman, and headed down the sidewalk to our class. Or so I thought.

We hadn't gone very far when Kinsey began to slow down. She was losing that firm pull I've come to trust that lets me know she is confident and eager to get where we are going. I began to hear music coming from overhead. I couldn't imagine the university playing music outside the buildings. This really had me puzzled.

We came to a point in our practiced route where I was supposed to begin suggesting a right turn toward the entrance to the building where we were already late for class. Kinsey was becoming more and more hesitant, but she took a right turn as she was being instructed to do. At this point, I knew we were not anywhere near where we needed to be.

Panic was starting to nibble at the edges of my thoughts when Kinsey's whole demeanor changed. I felt that confident tug on the harness handle. I decided to let Kinsey do her thing.

After a few minutes of walking, Kinsey stopped. I put my hand out and felt a wall. At the same time, I heard a window slide open. “Can I help you?” the voice said.

I told the woman we were lost and my dog had brought me to this place. She told me we were at a fast-food hamburger restaurant. We were standing in the drive- through.

As it turned out, the first lady we met had taken us across the wrong street. The lady at the drive-through walked us back across the correct street. But Kinsey was the real hero. She found the window where we got help. Of course, she may have just wanted a cheeseburger and fries, but I was hugely proud of her for taking me to a building instead of just wandering aimlessly, which is what I probably would have done were I depending upon the standard white cane instead of this wonderful Guiding Eyes for the Blind dog.

About the author:

SHERRY BENNETT WARSHAUER is an award winning author of two non-fiction books, Everyday Heroes and Tails of the Heart. Both of these books detail the extraordinary and heart warming experiences of dogs trained by Guiding Eyes for the Blind. In addition to her writing non-fiction about these dogs, she writes children's books and raises and trains service dogs for Guiding Eyes. She makes her home in Stamford, with her husband and the therapy dog they have raised.

About the column: “K-9 HEROES”

This column is written as a living tribute to the extraordinary dedication and courage of dogs and people. We call these dogs “heroes” because of their work as guide dogs for the blind, crime fighters for the Connecticut State Police, search and rescue dogs as well as therapy dogs. The boundless effort these dogs continue to make to improve the lives of those they serve illustrates how one person's life can be dramatically changed by the love and help of a dog.

About Guiding Eyes for the Blind

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, was founded in 1956 to enrich the lives of blind and visually impaired men and women by providing them with the freedom to travel safely, thereby assuring greater independence, dignity and expanded horizons of opportunity. Since that time, Guiding Eyes has become one of the foremost guide dog schools in the world, graduating more than 7,000 guide dog teams. It provides superbly bred Guiding Eyes dogs, professional training and follow-up support services to students at no cost to them and depends on contributions to fulfill its mission. The comprehensive cost of breeding, raising, preparing, training, and supporting a Guiding Eyes team is $45,000. Guiding Eyes for the Blind's Headquarters and Training Center is located in Yorktown Heights, New York and the Canine Development Center is in Patterson, New York. Visit them at www.volunteer.guidingeyes.org or call 866-GEB-LABS for additional information.

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