84: Misty’s Tilted Halo

84: Misty’s Tilted Halo

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

Misty’s Tilted Halo

Not-so-fun fact: Distracting a service dog while she’s working could be dangerous to her handler, so do not pet or speak to a service dog.

“Oh, I see you’ve got one of those angels on earth!” exclaimed a woman who saw me at the park with my first guide dog, Misty. Of course, the public has a misconception that guide dogs are flawless. I smiled and nodded. I couldn’t tell her that my guide’s halo occasionally tilted. In fact, Misty had just been distracted by a duck and almost pulled me into the nearby pond.

When onlookers see a well-behaved guide dog, that’s not an accident; it is hard work for the dog handler. Practicing good dog-training skills is a task I work on daily. A blind owner must give the dog constant praise for good behavior or gentle correction when it makes a mistake or becomes distracted. It’s a delicate challenge to discipline my best friend, my buddy that I need to trust.

Stepping into busy streets and walking around construction sites are just two of the dangers we overcome together. Being generous with affection and setting limits have positive results with my dog. A friend and fellow student at the Seeing Eye thinks so, too, saying, “I wish I had gotten my guide dog before I raised my kids. I would have used praise and consistency more.”

Misty did a great job looking out for my needs, but she also managed to take care of hers. One day, she skillfully navigated me through a bustling store during the holidays. I was distracted by the commotion. Babies cried, cash registers clinked, bags rustled, and Christmas carols blared on a sound system.

“Can I pet your dog?” other shoppers asked me.

“No, I’m sorry, she’s working.” Misty’s beauty and gentle eyes attracted people like a magnet, but she needed to pay attention to me, and all the hazards in our path. Through the harness handle, I felt my dog move more cautiously, so I sensed obstacles and cramped aisles.

We were ready to go home when I realized that I hadn’t said “good girl” for keeping me safe. What an oversight on my part, since our shopping trip was without any flaws, not even a stumble or bump. I heard a “whoosh” as the electric doors parted, and I bent down to give her a pat. That was when I felt something clenched in her jaw — a spongy, round object. My good dog had snatched a ball from the toy department. I went back into the store to pay for the ball, which became her holiday bonus.

Despite her training, good manners, and charm, Misty was full of surprises. One evening, we took her to the theater with us. As the house lights were going down we dashed to our seats. My husband helped me peel off my coat, and then I told Misty “sit.” A thud and a sigh let me know she was down, but I learned later, not all the way. The man seated in front of her must have been alluring, full of animal magnetism to my dog. Before lying down on the floor, she lunged forward, and I heard her give him a “kiss” on the back of his ear. My husband told me that the man turned to look at his wife with a huge smile on his face.

Misty gave me freedom and dignity and she was a responsible, careful guide dog; but she was still a dog at heart. Once, at our home during one of our yuletide parties, a guest asked, “What’s that sticking out of your nativity scene?” I knelt down and felt around under the decorated tree. And there it was — a stash of buried dog biscuits!

~Carol Chiodo Fleischman

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