Other Voices: Most People Don’t Think

Most people don’t think I’m all that smart. They just see a big black dog with a big head and big feet. They all say I must be a good dog, but not smart.

Oh, sorry, I forgot to tell you my name. It’s Ecko. Most people spell it wrong. I know another black dog, a lady dog, and she spells it the usual way, with an H. But my way is more interesting.

I’m a guide dog. Some people call me a seeing eye dog, but I’m really a guide dog. Seeing Eye is a school in New Jersey that trains guide dogs, but I didn’t study there. It’s kind of like when people say they need a Kleenex, when what they really mean is a tissue.

My mistress is a piano teacher. She also gives concerts in lots of different places. Sometimes, the concerts are so far away we have to ride on a kind of car that goes up in the air. I think it’s called a plane, but it seems to interesting and scary to be called a plane. I don’t like being on a plane, especially when it first goes up in the air and when it comes back down to the ground. I lie on the floor when we are on the plane, and it’s really loud and ticklish when I’m there. But since my mistress is with me, I’ll do it.

She’s good at making me try things even if they’re scary. When I was still sort of a puppy, she found out I was afraid of escalators. It seems to me that, since most staircases don’t move when you walk on them and people go up and down those just fine, there’s no reason to put a motor in there and make the whole thing move. But I guess people think it’s better if they can accomplish something standing in one place that they used to do by moving around.

Anyhow, she found out I was scared. The worst part was that she took me all over and made me ride up and down on every escalator she could find. She’d even go up and down the same one lots of times in a row. Once, we almost got in trouble with a security guard at a store because he couldn’t understand why we kept going up and down for twenty minutes. He thought my mistress was lost, and probably thought I was stupid for getting her lost.

That’s the thing: I don’t decide where we go. She does. She tells me which direction to go, and then I make sure to steer her around anything that’s in the path along the way. People think I can tell when to cross the street by watching the light. That’s dumb! Dogs are color-blind! My mistress listens to the cars and tells me when to cross. I just have to make sure she walks in a straight line to the other side.

I have a good memory, though. I remember things I smell for a long time. I love sniffing things. You can find out more about something by sniffing or licking it than by looking at it.

So I use those scents and my memory when I work for my mistress. Even if we’ve only been somewhere once or twice, that’s enough for me. I will try to remember the direction we went the last time we were there. If I do a good enough job remembering, my mistress will always say something about my good memory and about how much I think.

Sometimes, she gets annoyed with me, though. I’m clumsy. Partly, it’s because I’m big. If I’m really excited about going somewhere or doing something, I’ll sometimes forget to pay attention to how big I am and that I have to leave room for my mistress to fit through places. Once, in a line in an airport, I tried to go under a rope to get to the place she wanted to go. I forgot she was taller than me. I got a scolding.

I don’t like being yelled at. It scares me. It makes me afraid to try new things because I don’t want to get yelled at again.

But I love food, and I love getting a treat for something I do.

I like to play with things in my mouth, even if they’re not food. I just like the feeling of them. They’re interesting. The neatest things I ever played with were a rubber band, a frog, and a screw. The screw was most fun. I actually put it in my water dish so I wouldn’t lose it, even with the water in there. But my mistress found it first and took it away.

I love water, too, especially the pools people have in their yards. Whenever I go anywhere with my mistress, I look for those pools. She doesn’t like me to swim in them, but when she’s not paying attention, I go in anyway. She tries to be angry with me, but usually, she’s laughing and can’t do it. I know I should listen to her, but the water is just too much fun to jump around in and bury my head in.

Another dog lives with us. He’s really old, though, and doesn’t like to play. He bit me once when I tried to play with him. Every so often, if he’s in a really good mood, he’ll play for about five minutes as long as I’m not too rough. He has trouble standing and walking now, so I have to be careful not to knock him down. But after that five minutes, he won’t play anymore, and I’ve learned not to push my luck.

Well, I’d better go back upstairs and lie down. Thanks for listening to me. At least there’s one person now besides my mistress who knows I’m big and smart.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Blindness, Dogs, piano

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