by Dr. Ron Milliman
As a university student, one has to take a few courses, maybe even a lot of courses, that tend to lack intense interest. OK, let’s just say it the way it is. Some courses are just plain boring: the book is boring, the class is boring, the professor is boring, everything about it is boring. Now, if they are boring to you and me, and we are supposed to be intellectual scholars seeking every little possible morsel of knowledge with the utmost enthusiasm, can you imagine how boring those courses must be to our guide dogs?
I was working on my Ph.D. at Arizona State University, majoring in marketing with supporting areas in economics and quantitative systems. Now, how exciting does that sound? Admittedly, some of the economics and statistics courses left a bit of excitement to be desired. Anyway, I was enrolled in Dr. Plantz’s Advanced Macroeconomic Theory course. Just the name of that course should put you in the party mood, right? Well, maybe not.
Anyway, Dr. Plantz had the habit of totally ignoring the bell when it rang, signaling the end of the class. He would just keep on lecturing, like he was totally deaf to the bell’s ringing frequency. My guide dog, Holly, would lie next to my chair at the end of the row. She would just sleep or whatever guide dogs do during an Advanced Macroeconomic Theory class. Holly was an exceptionally good dog. She was an exceptionally quiet dog. In fact, I very, very rarely even heard her bark. Oh, she would snore when she was sleeping, and sometimes in class, I would have to nudge her with my foot to arouse her from that dream of catching squirrels in the woods or whatever dogs dream about.
Dr. Plantz was lecturing, telling us about how the Gross National Product was correlated with the movement of the prime interest rate or some such theoretical construct when the bell rang, telling us that the class period was over, and it was time to go to the next class, go grab a hot dog, or whatever the students did when leaving Dr. Plantz’s classroom. But Dr. Plantz just kept right on lecturing, drawing a graph on the chalkboard, changing the prime rate from six to five percent, and showing how the GNP would go up by some amount.
Then, it happened!! Holly got up and shook her harness as loudly as she could as she looked directly at Dr. Plantz. She was tactfully, that is, as tactfully as an 87-pound long-haired German shepherd could be, telling Dr. Plantz that the class period was over, and it was time to go home and get some doggie treats or maybe a hot dog from the student union. Dr. Plantz, however, just kept on lecturing, ignoring the bell, and even worse, ignoring Holly’s tactful reminder that the class was officially over, at least as far as she was concerned.
After a few seconds, Holly simply said, “Enough is enough, Dr. Plantz. I have heard all the Advanced Macroeconomic Theory that I can take for today!” She started barking as loudly as she could, louder than I ever heard her bark before or since! Dr. Plantz literally ran to the far side of the room, and while frantically waving his arms, he yelled, “Class dismissed.”
We all filed out of the room and over into the elevator. My classmates were all saying, “Good dog, Holly!” “Way to go, Holly!” and “Three cheers for Holly!” After that day, Dr. Plantz was mysteriously able to hear the bell when it rang at the end of class!
(This article was published in the American Council of the Blind August 2019 E-Forum)