In Honor of National Guide Dog Month

A photo of Erika with her guide dog.

By Erika Wolf

Guide dogs have played a gigantic part in teaching me many invaluable life lessons, by standing by my side at critical moments where I didn’t have any way of knowing what was set in front of me; helping to soothe what seemed to be unmanageable steps to take.

A great majority of my life (for the past 25 years), ever since being admitted to an accredited guide dog school in 1995, has been spent being guided by an irreplaceable guide dog to lead me throughout my home surroundings, as well as many places afar.

Months before my niece Ashlea was born, marked the very same year I acquired my first guide dog, Maggie.

Looking back I remember saying to young Ashlea at the time, when she grew to about the age of two, talking to some degree: “someday, Maggie (a light blonde to almost white Labrador Retriever, with an entirely pink nose, that loved sitting back on her hind haunches and placing her lovely paws in yours), “will someday belong to you.”

As it turned out, years later, Maggie did not get placed with Ashlea when it came time for her to retire, since Maggie’s career got cut short due to her epileptic seizures that were not completely controlled, even with the administration of Phenobarbital and Tamanol (anti-seizure and pain medications).

After retiring Maggie came three more Labrador Retrievers into my life to make everyday living much more manageable when it came to traveling around city streets and getting in and out of buildings, shopping malls, as well as a whole host of other areas like hotels, outdoor arenas, casinos, and a wide variety of structures. Varying types of dwellings were not at all intimidating to navigate, due to all four guide dogs, over time, having the utmost exquisite skilled training to guide.

Not only have my guide dogs have had the superior ability to bring me out of so many would-be dangerous situations, without using a guide dog, such as maneuvering around construction sites and zones; ensuring my safety as I meandered a myriad of controlled and uncontrolled intersections, they have given me such a sense of security and confidence that probably would not have developed, otherwise. 

Besides Maggie’s trademark characteristics, her pink nose and sitting back on her haunches, poised so sophisticatedly, all my other guide dogs had recognizable traits that have stood out, and noticed by all whom have come in close contact with them. 

Canoga, my second Blonde Lab, had an exceptionally long body, fiercely energetic, with an extraordinary immeasurable guiding ability, that was almost near infallible.  Canoga’s exceptional guiding ability prevented me from getting hit at a number of four-way intersections throughout the time she worked; where and when drivers were apparently not abiding by a Pedestrian’s Right of Way, and honoring The White Cane Law. 

My third guide dog, Chandra (now retired, for quite some time), has a brilliant black shiny coat that shines like no other.  One of her trainers from the school often referred to her as “Shiny Chan”, which of course, has always melted my heart.  Chandra is the guide dog I “owned the longest, as well as, the dog that has worked as an active guide more than any other, and travelled with me throughout most parts of the country. Reflecting back, once more, I remember saying within my graduation speech, while still at the school, “Chandra will travel to many unknown territories with me, and be my sole way of exploring many places far and wide, along with, taking us along basic routes. “

Barbara, my current guide, like Chandra, is a Black Labrador Retriever, and is noticeably wise beyond her tender age of three. Barbara has beautiful brown-green eyes, and is her unique striking characteristic, that makes her stand out from most Black Labs. 

She is loving to all that come within her reach, and doesn’t at all hesitate to give you a huge tongue kiss, that leads you into peals of laughter. Barbara loves to roll onto her back while being brushed, pretty much demanding a softly light brush on the tummy. 

As you can see, from all I’ve written above, guide dogs, as a whole, have played a palpable pivotal role in my life. My mother was the first person to strongly encouraged me to get a guide dog many years ago, explaining how much I would truly love and adore my dog upon acquiring one.  Mom was correct, once more, and I’m so glad I listened to her, following her words of wisdom to pursue the steps and path of obtaining a guide dog.

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