A City Dog gets to Work and Play
By Katie Crocker
Every August, as part of my job, I record an event that is held at the Massachusetts state house. My job at this event is to set up audio equipment, record speakers and audience discussion, and ultimately, turn that audio into a radio show. The event features a yearly program run by the Massachusetts agency for the blind. In any case, this was the first time I've attended this event with a guide dog since 2011. Jetty and I have been a team now for about 15 weeks; he is by far the youngest dog I have ever taken to this particular event (I've attended this yearly since 2006). This involves tons of people, many with white canes, several with guide dogs, tables, crowds, food, the whole nine. In addition to these distractions, I also had many situations where Jetty needed to do a sit/stay or down/stay, while I untangled wires, tested audio equipment, etc. This also involved him helping me trace along walls to find wires, and tape them down to avoid tripping hazards, much of this was just him and I, without sighted assistance. Let me just say, Jetty was a total rock star! He did an amazing job, weaving me past tables, podiums, other people who could not see us, led me past curled up wires, even stopping patiently while I rearranged wires along the wall so others without sight would not trip. His work was exemplary; never before have I seen such restraint and focus in such a young partnership.
Another thing I found amazing was Jetty's ability to read me before I gave any commands. As I've been behind the scenes at this event for multiple years, I know the surrounding area quite well. It only took Jetty a trip or two to figure out: A, where my assigned chair in the audience was, B; where the podium we needed to connect to was, C; where our recording devices were (in a separate room, D; where the press media ports were in the room. We needed to frequent these places periodically, as the recording requires two separate speaker systems. There were folks there who were deaf/blind, so we also needed to account for an FM transmitter to accommodate listening devices. This was my first time making on the spot changes to our rig, but it worked out for the best!
There were a number of guide dogs there. One belonged to MCB commissioner, another belonged to the ADA coordinator of the state house. Then there were several in the crowd. One I knew from my previous guide dog school, and a few from our own GDB.
Jetty was a gentleman, through and through. He targeted the areas I needed, with very little verbal cues, which I found amazing! He and I are getting into that "mind reading" phase, where before I can utter a command, he seems to already know! We move like a fluid force, together. At every step he seems to know what I need, and in turn, I feel through all things what he needs. We have been a good team so far. Of course there have times where we have had to figure each other out, but it seems like with each trip out the door we get better and better. We are learning more about each other every day. But, we are staring to respond to each other on a level that is almost surreal. Sometimes it's nonverbal. Sometimes a gesture, or my pace, or...I don't even know what, will prompt my boy to do move in a way where we just flow. It completely takes my breath away.
The minute we get home, and the harness comes off, Jetty turns into a goofy, sloppy teenager. He grabs whatever toy is closest, snorts, and will do backflips right into you. He likes keep away games, loves to chew, and loves, more than anything else, to feel needed and important. When I sit on the floor, he will curl up in my lap, and he seems to feel at peace. He needs both work, and play, in that order. If Jetty can't guide, he really doesn't feel like himself. But when we are out and about, he is his happiest. This is an amazing dog.....
The streets of Boston are loud and chaotic. At every turn there are crowds, buses honking their horns, construction, you name it. But nothing ever phases Jetty, or gets him worried. He is the most confident city dog I've ever had. GDB did a wonderful job pairing us together, and I can't thank them enough for this amazing gift! I look forward to every day as an adventure with this boy by my side! This is how we/have grown. I feel so blessed!