How To Ruin A Guide Dog In The Blink Of An Eye

How To Ruin A Guide Dog In The Blink Of An Eye

Just for the record, nut job drivers–red lights mean stop! They’re not optional; they’re mandatory. They’re not suggestions for some people; they apply to everyone. Those of us in the crosswalks with our children have the right-of-way. Always. Blaring your obnoxious horns at us because we slow you down by a few seconds won’t change that fact.

Oh, and you in your gray car, the one that came within three or four inches of taking the nose off my guide dog last Tuesday evening as I crossed the street with my nine-year-old daughter Sarah, congratulations! My yellow Labrador, Anlyn, was so shaken up by nearly eating your bumper, she puked a few blocks further down the sidewalk. She’s physically okay now–we all are–not that you stopped to check or anything. But on the inside, she’s a mess.

That’s right, dogs can have mental and emotional issues just like people. My guide dog is suffering from post-traumatic stress. She may not be able to work anymore because of your recklessness. I hope you got where you were going in such a big hurry.

Horns of Fury:

On the fateful Tuesday evening, Sarah and I approached the nearby stoplight. With both the parallel traffic and the audible signal in our favor, we started to cross the street. Sarah is sighted, so she can watch for the visual walk signal, but I’ve been teaching her to read traffic patterns as well.

We had no sooner left the sidewalk, Anlyn a half a step ahead, when you turned right on red just inches in front of us, horn blaring as if we were in the wrong. You flipped off my fourth grader—how mature of you—and sped off down the busy street as if you owned the world.

How To Ruin A Guide Dog

Anlyn jerked me backward onto the sidewalk, hard,  exactly as she’s been trained to do. I yanked my daughter away from the street and hugged her, long and fiercely, till she finally pulled back and said, “Mom, I’m fine. Quit hugging me.”

In the next moment I knelt on the pavement and threw my arms around Anlyn, holding her tight and blinking back tears. Anlyn bathed my face with sloppy wet kisses and wagged her stout Labrador tail till I wondered if she would wiggle herself in half. As soon as I could get my act together and assure myself everyone was okay, we started home.

A few blocks later, Anlyn stopped and puked all over the sidewalk. I chalked it up to nerves. She seemed all right after that, so we kept walking.

Trauma Changes Behavior: 

For the next two afternoons, everything appeared fine. When it came time to pick up my daughter from school, I grabbed Anlyn’s harness, tossed a small handful of kibble in my pocket, and said enthusiastically as always, “Hey, let’s go get Sarah!”

Anlyn was game. She and Sarah are tight, and she knows the route to the school well. It’s easy, not much traffic, and her best bud is waiting at the end of it. Besides, she gets pieces of kibble along the way for passing yappy dogs without pausing to play and finding certain landmarks such as fences and telephone poles. How much better can life be for a guide dog?

But Sunday morning, disaster struck. I called Anlyn and Sarah so we could all walk to church. Anlyn, who had no idea where we were going, panicked when I tried to put her harness on. She ducked her head, bolted away, even attempted to run as best she could with her leash on. The scene was heartbreaking. I ended up having to leave my trusty guide at home and walk to church with my white cane.

Monday came with no improvement. Anlyn kept bolting from the harness she had once accepted eagerly. A call to the school where she’d been trained confirmed my worst fears. My dog is suffering from severe stress about unfamiliar routes caused by the trauma of the traffic event. She may or may not recover. Good going, reckless driver. A few seconds of your careless behavior may have ended the career of a guide dog that took seventy thousand dollars and a year and a half to train and put into service, and broken a bond of trust between the two of us that  has been cemented over three years of effort, patience, and love on both of our parts.

So far, I’ve tried feeding Anlyn her meals in harness to help her associate her harness with positive experiences, rather than negative ones. Feeding her in harness has not gone well. She’s started throwing up after meals because of the stress, and I’ve had to drop that strategy for now. I’m taking her out in public on leash, instead of in harness, to keep her used to social environments. Eventually, I’ll ease her back into working on the one route she enjoys, picking Sarah up at school, so she can be confident and successful. Which means that for now, I’m going to a lot fewer places. It’s cramping my style in a big way. It’s like I’m grounded because of the poor behavior of one inconsiderate driver. How fair is that?

An Inconvenient Reality: 

For now, I’m having to use a cane instead of a dog for traveling. It’s a major inconvenience. I’ve lost my most efficient way of getting around and one of the sweetest, most affectionate travel buddies I ever had, at least temporarily, because you, big shot in your gray car, couldn’t take a few seconds and wait for a blind chick and her little girl to cross the street. I’ll do my level best to get my guide dog over this hurdle and back to work because she means the world to me and my family. But if I can’t, if it’s too much for her and she has to retire and become a household pet, you’ll have cut six or seven good years off her career for no reason. I’ll have to get on the waiting list for a new guide dog, which will very likely take several months or even a year, and then travel out west for training and start over building a bond with a new partner. I’m worried and unhappy. Oh wait, no, I’m scared to death and absolutely furious, just so you know.

Now that you’ve all heard how to ruin a guide dog in the blink of an eye, here’s how not to.

Please, people, watch for blind pedestrians—well, all pedestrians—at crosswalks. Slow down. Pay attention. Walkers and bicyclist always have the right-of-way, but especially keep your eyes out for children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, who may need a few extra seconds at stoplights. A little time and patience crossing the street isn’t too much to offer them, with grace and willingness, no less. Thanks for your cooperation.

Have you had a bad experience with your guide dog and a careless driver? Leave a comment below.

Editor’s Note: Read more from Jo Pinto on Blind Motherhood, and check out her book, The Bright Side of Darkness, available on 

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  1. Frances, Nuala and I were recently out shopping. The first street closest to our home is a one way, but has a heavy traffic flow. Frances, my daughter and I were in the middle of the crossing, when a large SUV, came up the wrong way on the one way street. The female driver was on her cell phone and claimed the GPS lead her in my direction. Frances, of course, reacted, but was visibly shaken, as well as my child. I yelled back at the woman, saying “You almost killed all of us,” to which she responded, “I told you it was the GPS. Are you just blind or are you also stupid!” I used a few colorful words after that, I have since asked my child not to repeat. Please, please be cautious when driving.

  2. Those right turns on red…infuriating that a driver couldn’t care less that you’re halfway into the crossing the street – and they think they can make it around you without running you over! This happened to me and my first guide dog – Bina – and one time I was so angry – because if I hadn’t pulled my guide dog back and out of the way – the car would’ve hit her – that I took the bag of groceries that was in my hand and swung it at the car as it went past us. Was so happy I decided to make chili that night and had bought several one pound cans of beans! That loud thunk of those cans hitting that car was oh so satisfying to hear!!

    1. As a massage therapist who suffers from ptsd , I know how crippling it can be. There is help and it comes in the form of energy therapy. Everyone knows about accupuncture, herbal therapy and homeopathy, but there is also EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique. It was created by Gary Craig and he has modified it somehow. I am not up to speed on the chane. Here is his website and I am sure he can help

      Also look up “tapping”.
      I have used the technique two ways – 1) directly on the dog and 2) by using a surrogate. This technique works by restoring normal energy pathway use. No need to walk without her. Good luck.

  3. How heartbreaking. We’ve fostered 6 dogs for Fidelco, a guide dog foundation that provides in community placement so you don’t have to travel for training, etc. The first 5 all served as guide dogs. We know from experience that another “good” way to ruin a guide dog is to let your “perfect” but uncontrolled pet approach a working guide (in harness) and have it train your guide dog to be reactive by not preventing an attack. We believe Ollie (#1) developed lupus from the stress and eventually refused to work at age 9 and was subsequently retired. The good news is that her handler returned her to us and she has made a remarkable recovery now that her life is stress free (now 14 years old!). Her days are now spent napping or harassing her “brother” (#6) who was trained to be a guide but developed minor psychological issues that kept him from serving. We will be praying for Anlyn’s health and well-being.

  4. Not a guide dog handler, but I do have a service dog. I’ve almost been hit twice.

    One, I was crossing the driveway of a strip mall to get to their sidewalk. There was a large SUV trying to make a left onto the four lane road. The driver was looking left, and from experience, I knew it was unlikely that she would check the sidewalk before pulling out. I should also mention that I’m not very tall, so only my head could be seen over the hood.

    I saw that there were two breaks in traffic coming up, a smaller one, just barely big enough to fit her car, then two cars, then maybe ¼ mile of open space. Plenty of time for me to cross if she waited for the second opening. Just as I stepped in front of her car, she starts to go for the first opening. Thank heavens I was paying attention! I yelled at her, and smacked my hand on her hood. She couldn’t possibly have waited five more seconds for that *huge* break in traffic?! I hope she had to go home and change her pants.

    The second one happened on the way to my physical therapy office. I stepped off the curb to cross the street of an unmarked crosswalk. Some idiot cruises around the corner and nearly clips us. It was so fast, I didn’t even get a chance to unleash a tirade of curses upon him, but karma saw fit to redeem me. He pulled into the same lot as my physical therapist, so I walked down to have a little chat with him.

    Me: Excuse me, did you not see me when you made that turn back there?
    Blind Driver: I saw you. Why?
    Me: You almost hit me and my dog.
    BD: I wasn’t anyway near you.
    Me: I’m pretty sure you were, or I wouldn’t have wasted what little energy I have in a day to confront you. I could easily have touched your car, and you were talking on the phone.
    BD: I made a pretty wide turn. I’m sorry if you’re upset.
    Me: Of course I’m upset! You almost hit me and my dog!
    BD: *suddenly becomes aware of my 55lb Golden Retriever mix* I’m sorry, I never even saw the dog.
    Me: Well, let me talk to your company and find out how they want to handle this.

    Yes. He was driving a company car with a phone number on it, and wearing a shirt with a nametag on it. I called and talked to his boss who said that the issue would be addressed when he returned at the end of the day.

    Fortunately, my dog has been incredibly resilient through the most trying of circumstances so far.

  5. Oh, I am so sorry to read this. I can’t i.agine how difficult this must be. I have raised 4 dogs for Guiding Eyes For The Blind and know how much work and love goes into these dogs. They are a lifeline for so many. I so wish you could find the driver so he/ she could be made aware of the damage they caused. People are in such a hurry these days and some have no regard for others. I can not imagine what that driver was thinking when a young girl, disabled mom, and guide dog had the right of way and were crossing the street. It was too long to wait a minute or maybe two. I do hope your girl recovers. They are resilient and hopefully with time and patience she will return to her previous disposition. Keep us updated.

  6. My husband and I were riding our bikes last week. At the end of the street is a stop sign and a zebra crossing. I arrived first and was obviously turning into the zebra crossing, but a big red truck pulled up alongside me and just ahead of me so that I could no longer see around it. He was obviously going to ignore that I was there first and had the right of way. I rode ahead of his bumper rather than dismounting. I turned in front of him, sure that he would stop. Not on your life. He laid on the horn, and started cussing me out. “I hope you have good insurance!” He yelled as he revved his engine. I almost fell off my bike from his horn blasting, but to blame his own disregard of the law on me, and threatening me besides, was completely insane. I hope your guide dog recovers. Thank God you and your child are fine, Jo. Thank you for posting this.

  7. Have you considered seeing if a local news station would do a human interest story on this post?

  8. I had a beautiful black lab who I was trying to train as my PTSD dog, when a guy had a dog on one of the leases that let’s lengths out and he came around a store shelves and lunged at me. It scared me and my dog, now he is very protective of me. But I can’t take him out to help me. I am 70 and thanks to that I now won’t go any place unless I know someone there. Thanks for letting me vent.

  9. It is very sad and I hope that she will be able to work again soon.

    It is so frustrating when this happens and I often feel that I can shake those selfish drivers.

    It happened a few times to me as well. I am actually contemplating carrying a white Cain with me so that I can hit those cars that do that.

    Then again, you get those motorists that will wait while you cross, but the guys behind them will hoot. I am wondering if they don’t care about the fact that the person in front of them might kill me and my dog?

    Its amaizing to think that there are people who can see perfectly well, but that they are as blind as bats when it comes to the people around them. For them it is “me, myself and I and bugger the rest.”

  10. Holly, Sarah and Anyln, so sorry to hear of this scarey. close call with danger. That’s just about everyone in the guide dog community’s worst nightmare…except maybe THE worst would be one where one or all of you don’t “walk” away. Thankful that you lived through it and praying along with you that Anlyn will receive divine strength and courage to overcome the understandable fear that she has and to one day very soon eagerly put her head right into the harness with a cautious but fearless happiness about hitting the road at your side. And may He keep you all from harm when you venture out.
    – Monique, GDA puppy raiser

  11. I lost the use of a service dog because of an improperly handled guide dog. I was walking down the administrative hall of a hospital when a large chocolate Lab ran out of an office and attempted to attack my young dog. I yelled at him and whacked him as hard as I could with my cane, only to be yelled at by his handler. I shouted back that he needed to keep his office door closed, as his dog had just attacked mine. I was too shaken up to inquire which agency had trained the dog so it could be sent back for retraining. His office door was shut when I left the office that I needed to visit. My dog, who kept learning new ways to help me, became very dog reactive as a result of the incident, and I had to be very careful where I used her. This was one of those rare, once in a lifetime dogs that could almost be sent to the store alone to do my shopping for me. I lost her last year at the age of 14, and now have a new dog that I love dearly, but she can’t do what my last dog did. She handles the important tasks, and for that I am grateful, but it was so nice being spoiled by my obnoxious little friend.

  12. It’s an absolute shame some people are so inconsiderate!!! I do know in some instances there are genuinely unintentional incidents like this, where a driver may have a problem with their vehicle and cannot stop the vehicle for whatever reason. This, sadly, does not in any way condone the actions but perhaps it would explain why some people are not merely inconsiderate but incapable. I hope you, your daughter, and your faithful companion are able to recover from this experience, and your dog able to resume her work she has been trained for.

  13. Hi Holly, can you update us on how Frances is doing since the auto incident? Has she overcome her hesitations?
    – Monique Newman, GDA puppy raiser

    1. Oops, I meant “how Anlyn is doing”

      1. Monique: Jo Pinto’s dog, Anlyn had a little patient retraining. She’s back to full duty and Jo is working her again. She is doing a post to bring everyone up to speed. Sorry for the delay. My girls have been sick.

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