I have a very good friend called Amanda who is totally blind. She is an amazing woman and her disability does not affect her ability to lead a positive and full life. She only lost her sight when she was in her mid 20’s and so when I describe things to her she knows exactly what I am talking about.
Amanda used to be able to drive and she has actually driven my car along a long private drive with me giving her small steering instructions, and when we got to gates, I would get out of the car and she would drive through the gate on her own. A really inspiring and wonderful woman.
Amanda has a guide dog that matches her enthusiasm for life. Clover is a black labrador and has now been retired but when she was working I always admired how she behaved. Clover had to be very well disciplined which is normal for a guide dog. She was fed at exactly the same time at 7 in the evening with just one meal a day. She would only be allowed to eat after a whistle was blown. You can imagine being led down the street by your guide dog who suddenly decided that the nearby rubbish bin needs to be investigated. So this strict routine had a very valuable purpose.
One of the most interesting things about Clover was her ability to switch from being at work and play. When her harness is put on, suddenly she was alert and ready to work. And watching her at work always surprised me. I remember being in an Indian restaurant, and the waiters were intrigued about this dog that lay under the table while we were eating and you would never have known she was there. But when it came to the time to leave they watched in amazement as Clover led Amanda across a large car park and took her to the passenger door to wait for me.
Guide dog at play
However, when it came for playing, Clover was just like any other dog, ready to run around and play any kind of game. She loved to tug on ropes and chew toy dolls into pieces and disembowel them of their filling leaving cotton or foam scattered all around the floor. Her other favourite game was to chase after things I threw across the garden for her.
But Clover was different from most Labradors, she would bring the stick, or ball or whatever I had thrown back to me. But then when I reached down to take it from her, she would snatch her head away and stop me getting it. This was her game. She would then allow me to chase her all over the garden and if I got tired, would then come and tease me, offering the item and then snatch it away before I could grab it. We had a lot of fun.
Amanda told me that I was the only person that Clover would start to squeal for when she heard my car coming down her long drive. She became excited because she was going to have fun being chased all over the garden and play games with me.