45: Micah Is My Hero

45: Micah Is My Hero

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Very Good, Very Bad Dog

Micah Is My Hero

Fun fact: Like people, guide dogs have specific times when they’re on and off the job. Usually, when they’re at home and off their harness, they can relax and just be a dog.

One lunch hour, I told my secretary I was leaving for lunch and would be going to the bank on my way back. The day was grey, drizzly and cold.

I grumbled under my breath about the weather, but I was grateful because Micah, my constant and loyal companion, was by my side. Micah is my Leader Dog for the Blind; he is excellent in leading me, staying focused, and guiding me with the directions I give to him.

But Micah is no ordinary Leader Dog. He is a Royal Standard Poodle and extremely intelligent. That also means he is a thinker, and sometimes very stubborn. Poodles are not usually used as guide dogs, but my husband has asthma and allergies, so a non-shedding poodle was the best choice.

On the way back to work, the weather turned worse. The wind had picked up and the drizzle turned into a cold rain. Micah and I picked up our pace in order to get back into the warm shelter of our building.

I pulled the hood strings a little tighter around my neck and the top of my hood fell down over my eyes. Not being able to see anyway, I didn’t mind, and I gave Micah the command to proceed straight ahead. We arrived at the corner. Micah halted, and then took one step back. I knew we needed to be cautious because we were at a very busy intersection. I stretched one foot forward, located the curb, and tapped it confidently (which indicates to Micah that I am safe and understand his movement). Together, we stood at the curb, ready to continue our journey. Micah and I communicate well with one another, both verbally and with little body movements and gestures, which gives me the self-confidence I need to live an independent lifestyle. I love Micah, and I felt proud to have him standing at my side as we waited for the light to change.

I began to listen to the traffic to determine the direction in which it was moving and to judge the status of the traffic light. When I gave Micah the signal, he would move forward.

As I waited, Micah became restless at my side. Noises in the surrounding area and the voices in my head began to crowd my brain, lulling me into a weary, tired state as the rain continued to fall. I felt Micah’s body pulling slightly forward, and I instinctively allowed him to take one step forward as I followed in a state of semi-consciousness. We stepped out into the familiar street to cross to the other side. But Micah pushed me more to the right, and sleepily, I moved right.

With the noise and voices fading in my brain but still lulling me into a semi-conscious state of obedience, I continued to walk across the street with Micah as my guide. Somehow, I began to realize that I should have come to the opposite corner sooner. I raised my foot a little higher so as not to trip on the curb. Micah then pulled me a little left, stopped, and then pulled back. I stopped, put out my foot, and felt something I thought was the curb, so I began to step up onto the sidewalk. But, to my surprise, I found it to be some kind of hard object I needed to step over.

Stumbling a bit, my senses awakened. Micah gave me a slight pull again, and we continued to advance more slowly as he felt my nervousness in each step. Finally, Micah pulled back hard and I stopped, sticking out my foot to find a higher-than-usual curb. Micah inched forward and up against my hip, and I stepped up onto the sidewalk, which was not level at all! Micah stepped up and stood quietly beside me with no movement. I urged him forward. Nothing! In a louder and more demanding voice, I said, “Okay, Micah, turn, find the street, and let’s get back to work. Come on, let’s go!” Nothing!

Micah sat down and refused to move in any direction. By this point, I was completely confused and had nowhere to go.

Within a few moments, a man’s voice cut through the silence. “Madam, can I approach you?”

I answered, “Yes, please do! Micah will not hurt you; he is my Leader Dog.”

The man stood beside me, urging me to move back slightly. He explained that the whole area was under construction, and the road was all torn up. Instead of taking me from one corner across to the other corner, then turning and going across the street to the other corner where we needed to be, Micah took me diagonally straight through the middle of the intersection, around a deep, huge hole, over a big pipe and safely to the corner where we needed to end up.

The man’s voice was soft and kind, but had a bit of a laugh in it. “Your dog is amazing! He knew exactly how to manipulate you through, around, and over the many dangerous obstacles that were in your path. Watching you both was an eye-opening experience for all of us!” Several individuals started to talk to me and ask all kind of questions.

I could not be angry or upset with Micah because he thought he was doing what he was supposed to do. He did do an amazing job of taking care of me and guiding me through the construction site. I was the one not paying attention to keep him on the right track. We both have to work together to make a great team. Micah remains my hero — he loves me unconditionally, he keeps me safe, and he gives me the freedom and independence to do what I want to do on my own.

~Lynn Fitzsimmons

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