After Living Many Months with My First Guide Dog…

planet of the blind

Learning you’re a figure of more than passing interest called for gumption and patience. I was getting it. I saw how my public reception was sometimes not what I imagined it would be. Again in a convenience store, late at night, Corky and I stopping for a bottle of milk, a man pushing a mop shouted: “Hey, that there’s a service dog!” Then another man appeared from a back room and said: “Do you know the story of the prophet Mohamed and the hero dog?” “No,” I said. “Well the dog Kitmir is in Paradise! He was a hero like your dog!” “Hero dog! Hero dog!” said the man with the mop. I felt a weird purple joy. Happiness among strangers was possible. Perhaps it was random, but it was possible. What was one to make of this? In one store I was a problem, in another a mythology.

With a guide dog you basically become a “sacred/profane wandering totem” and there’s no help for it. After a few months with Corky I started to see this as hopscotch—jump—you’re in a beautiful, even magical space; jump—you’re in a profane spot. Jump again—you’re like the dog Kitmir in Paradise. Jump. You’re fighting with one of those occasional connoisseurs of hate who you can meet almost anywhere and without warning.

Good. Bad. Weird. Lovely. Shade. Sunlight. Peace. Rain squall. I thought: “Isn’t disability a constant in the midst of life’s fast waters?” “It simply Is,” I thought. “And life simply is.”

Sacred space is where you arrive and whatever is the essential you is one with both the place and its people. Profane space is where you’re the discomfiting other, and while you might try street theater or argument, you may never get the acceptance you want.

“What if I never get the acceptance I want?” I said aloud to Corky as we were going home with a quart of milk with Kitmir the dog in mind. “What does that mean?” I asked, as if my dog might answer.


Author: skuusisto

Poet, Essayist, Blogger, Journalist, Memoirist, Disability Rights Advocate, Public Speaker, Professor, Syracuse University

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