Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Bond That Binds Us

A man giving his Guide Dog a hug
Bonding. At Guide Dogs for the Blind, we talk a lot about the bond between a person and their Guide Dog. It's so cool when it happens, but it happens at different times for different people/dogs. This post is a shout out to GDB Alumni - we'd love to hear your comments on the matter. When did you first really bond with your Guide Dog? Was it love at first sight? Did it happen over time? Was there some moment you shared that solidified your partnership? What were the required ingredients that made it happen? And for you retreads: how did the bonding process differ between each of your respective guides?


  1. I definitely think it was something that happened over time, and happened at different times for me and Trixie. I think the first time I felt she trusted me and was bonding with me was the day I was coming home from class. After we loaded into mom and dad's car, she squished herself as close to me as she possibly could. It was like she was saying "You're my security." I about melted.

    The time I felt it strengthen from my end of the harness handle was when I could understand the more complex messages she was sending me, more than just "we're at the corner" or "stairs ahead" or "we can't continue in this direction" but things like "look lady, I seem to know better where I'm going than you do in this snow storm, hang on, I'll take you to your destination." Or "It's too icy here. Either solicit aid or put your ice grippers on. If you do neither of those things, I ain't movin' one paw." Other handlers think I'm crazy, but sometimes I can hear something in my head that is what I'm imagining she's thinking. It's not what I think she's thinking as said by my own voice, it's what her voice would be if she had one. That, I think, is the sign of a good bond. Or maybe it's that I'm nuts. Hmmm. Hopefully it's the former.

  2. I truly feel it was instant, but it has gotten more intense since those early days in San Rafael. The very first time we were doing obedience she was starting to move to the next position when I said her name. That's right, before I even gave the actual command... My instructor told me that she was so eager to work for me that I should just use the command without her name. I was amazed; before we were matched, I thought it would take a lot longer for her to become responsive to me. She is a very high initiative/drive guide. As well, our personalities are so similar that it is down right spooky sometimes. We moved across town not long after our training. She handled these new crowded and busy streets with no worries. I got some O&M help to find one of my eye docs offices loacted just off Union Square. I have a very hard time finding the front door, there is no awning or anything else that I can see to help me with the doors location. After patterning with my O&M specialist and my cane one time we left for my next appointment. This is a complex route using the underground to cross market street, and cruising past Union Square. I forgot that we had just crossed our last alley before the building, but my guide didn't. After being patterned only once she turned to the front door just as I should have asked her to. Her reward was verbal, physical, and crunchy. I feel that she is more than a mind reader, it's as if we are sharing the same mind. Often when we get to curbs, both up and down, she gives me a nudge to let me know she appreciates her praise. Of course, shee could be trying to get kibbles just for being sweet, but i'm allright with that too! I could ramble on at great length, but I will spare eveyone my gushing devotion to her. We share mutual trust, repect, and love for each other that I have never known before. Seth and Bamboo sing we love you GDB!

  3. These stories are GREAT!! We want more!

  4. This is my perspective on my bond with Julio. I got Julio when I had one more year of high school. I honestly think that, in many ways, I was trying too hard. I'd been so set on getting a Guide Dog and coming to class as a well-prepared student. I read many accounts of training written by graduates of GDB, specifically the Oregon campus to get a feel for what kinds of things happened so I'd be ready for the challenges of training.

    That in and of itself wasn't bad, it just became problematic because I worried it to death. I tend to worry even the smallest issue to death sometimes. I was so worried about whether we were bonding, I honestly wonder if that made it harder for Julio and I to bond. Once I stopped worrying so much about making mistakes and learning from them, Julio and I started to bond. We played games more and he started to act like his silly, outgoing and loving self (Julio is the perfect name for my male yelloww lab).

    I like to think that he and I have an even more special bond although I suspect every other handler feels that way sometimes. But Julio has really been there for me through surgery and chronic illnesses, he's been by my side. If I've had a blood draw, IV or nerve block, Julio finds it and licks it gently. I know when he's upset and he knows when I am. He's saved my life a few times when he handled a scary traffic situation for me. We're a great team, but we've had to build on challenges we didn't expect.

    I don't know how our bond got so strong, only that it takes some magic, a careful match, trust in each other and the learning process and love.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share our story!

    Nickie OR103

  5. I think worrying too much is something we all do, Nickie. Thanks for the reminder to take it easy and play! That's something our dogs try to teach us, too.

    No two people (or dogs, for that matter) are alike, and we can learn a lot from each other's experiences. Thanks so much for sharing the story of your bond. Sounds like a strong one!

  6. Greg is my fourth guide and I believe bonding with each one was different.

    Gerald was my first - he was very attached to the instructors so it took awhile and probably didn't realy happen untl we were back home.

    With my guide David, i think i was more the problem. having lost my first beloved guide, i was having some difficulty remembering he was not my first guide and should not be compared or expected to be. I was now also in a retrain class of only two weeks so the time to bond actually at the school was not as long.

    Tokyo, my third guide, and I bonded pretty quickly but i think the one I bonded to the quickest was my current guide, Greg. Even when meeting the puppy raiser at graduation, she was surprised how close Greg and i were already just within two weeks of training. but as one poster nmentioned, it could have been that "security" word as Greg was the youngest of all four to have completed his training at only 18 months. He was not but a puppy at that time so I'm sure it was still all a bit frightening to him and yet somehow exciting. He is now just past 11 years old.

  7. Well I just can't resist posting again... I was quickly reminded of something while I read about Nickie & Julio. Not long after leaving San Rafael I started to have some foot pain. After a few weeks of x-rays the pain still growing, I made the hard decision to take Bamboo back to the kennels. The night before our ride on Para-Transitmydog became very interested with my foot. She sniffed, and sniffed some more; finally she stopped and pressed her nose down very intently. Then a deep intake of air, and almost a sign during her exhale. The spot that she had found ended up being three stress fractures, and the doctore still didn't know it for another week. By the time they had figure it out my feet were probably glowing in the dark, and I had an MRI. Also, I have diabetes, and I check my blood sugar lots. Since we have been together, my fingers no longer look like a pin cusion, gotta love majical doggie saliva. Sometimes she even seems to pick up on by low bloood sugar. One day she just stopped and looked back at me... Low blood sugar being what it is, I was somewaht checking out mentally. Confused, but having no physical signals, we stopped for a sip of water. I stuck my finger and was informed that my sugar was about 50. We took a longer than normal pit stop, and played tug and loved on each other. As always, I am so amazed by my dog, not only is she guiding me, she is very alert when it comes to my well being. She can be off duty at home and if I cough, sneeze, or bonk myself she comes a runnin' to check me over. She understand many things, with the exception of take a day, or a moment even, off for yourself.

    Wags, Seth & Bamboo.

  8. This is a great topic. I also wanted to step in and add my experieince as well. July is my first guide and we have been a team for over 8 years now. We did not have a connection right away and it was tough for me in the beginning. I have had a dog in my life since I was born and they have always been very expressive and showed affection almost instantaneously. So when I received July it was quite a shock. She worked beautifully but didn't show much interest in me outside of guide work. It felt like she had the attitude that I am working because it is my job and I am supposed to. When she wasn't working, she really didnt' interact with me much. She didn't play or lick me. In fact, right after she was issued to me and I was sitting in my room with her, she wouldn't even look at me. I remember thinking, wow! I love my dog but she can't stand me and I worried about weather we would ever connect. She stayed this way throughout class and when we went home it became the testing period. I have to smile now but there were times that she brought me to tears.
    I honestly can't pin point the moment in time when it all just came together but it did happen. It took about a year for us, but it happened. July finally decided I was deserving of her loyalty I guess. But, one day we went out and I just had this amazing feeling of rightness. Everything clicked into place. she shows affection to me now, though it is more subtle, that is just who she is. But she is happy to see me if I have to be away from her for a time. Words really can't express the bond we share now. She is an extension of me. Even though it has been 8 years, I am still so amazed by the relationship we have as I was when I first realized it so long ago. I loev and adore my Lady J and I know that she loves me in turn. I couldn't have asked for a better guide and friend.

  9. Hi all. I just graduated in May with my yellow lab Zeb. He is a male and is 23 inches tall and weighs 66 pounds. We were in the April 2011 class. For me, it was love at first sight! He was exactly what I asked for in personality, pace, and his ability to work without much distraction or handling. This was my first time at gdb and it felt magical. After graduating, at home he is settling in nicely. We've been many places together and wherever he go he is always admired and arises to whatever challenges are ahead as far as work and environment goes. It has taken time to build trust, and we've learned so much since we've been home. I can read his signals and he is glued to me following me wherever I go here in the apartment. He's more than just my guide, my friend, and companion. His raisers did such a great job with him. He evensettled in at work. One day, I can remember we had an international day of food. Many students and staff were in one classroom with all of this food and Zeb stayed under my desk as if nothing was going on! gdb rocks, and I just want to say how much Zeb means to me! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend your program and giving me the independence and freedom with such a wonderful guide and friend!