Human Beings are So Lonely

Guiding Eyes


Yesterday I went to the bookstore at Syracuse University. It was a mob scene because yesterday was also the opening of classes. Entering the store felt like boarding the subway on Lexington In New York City and I crammed and squeezed my way forward and then it happened: a well meaning man wearing a very orange tee shirt raced up, ostensibly to help me, but really he wanted to pet my guide dog. He didn't ask permission, just settled into a loving session which caused Nira to forget that she was "in harness" and on duty. This fellow went on at some length about his own dog, and meanwhile, there among hundreds of people I struggled to keep control of my dear working companion who was in danger of getting out of bounds.

I didn't reprimand the fellow. Didn't tell him that when a guide dog is wearing its harness you shouldn't talk to it or pet it. Didn't explain that this consistency has everything to do with keeping the dog's owner safe from falling on ice or stairs because the dog has decided to get some attention. Didn't explain that "working a dog up" with petting can make it lose all focus. That the reason guide dogs can go everywhere is that long ago blind activists proved that their dogs were impeccably trained. I didn't say any of these things. 

People are lonely. We cover it up with fashion and goo-gaws. We talk our way out of it–almost. And for a moment I saw it there in that crowd. So I just let the whole guide dog thing go. 

I have to remind myself that my own safety is at stake. Empathy stops at the street's edge.



0 thoughts on “Human Beings are So Lonely

  1. Yesterday, en route to the State Fair, I stopped a guy who was walking an absolutely beautiful pit bull. I asked before patting, obeying all the rules, and yes, I was desperately lonely, for I am dogless for the first time in 28 years. The pit bull wasn’t in any kind of official service, but what a gift she gave me.
    Good luck staying safe, Steve.


  2. I think you should have explained to him nicely about your working companion. Maybe he would have learned something and he would have spoken with you as well. Your safety is at stake. You owe it to yourself to control well maeaning but ignorant people.


  3. Stephen,
    Very well stated! As the public relations person for Southeastern Guide Dogs, I try to always stress the importance of proper guide dog etiquette, but there is a time and place where sometimes etiquette needs to take a backseat. Going away to college is a lonely and scary process and the attention of a four-legged friend may have been exactly what that person needed – you are to be commended for indulging him.
    Ironically, the article I read just prior to your blog post was this –
    Jennifer Bement
    Southeastern Guide Dogs


  4. This is a great read on people’s need to connect – the notion of the “therapy animal” comes to mind (I am here in my little corner of my basement writing and my lab is keeping me company).
    It also makes me think about how the training for being a service dog makes these dogs so approachable. These animals are “well-mannered” and exude intelligence. Their training to support people gives them qualities that draw people in…I see this all the time with my father’s seeing eye dog. This summer we were walking through a mall parking lot in sweltering Dallas, Texas and people were stopping their cars and getting out to see the dog.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s