When the blind human and the seeing dog reach a road crossing, the dog stops, and waits. When the dog is sure that it’s safe to cross, it gives a tug on the lead to let the human know that it’s time to go.
According to guide dog charities and organisations for the visually impaired, this is one of the most widespread misunderstandings concerning seeing-eye animals. I suppose it’s fairly obvious when you think about it, but I confess I never had thought about it: it’s not the guide dog who tells the human it’s safe to cross – it’s the human who tells the guide dog. Canine eyes cannot be trained to read traffic lights, for one thing. The human uses hearing (of traffic, other pedestrians, or crossing signals) to judge when it’s safe to cross, and tells the dog to walk on. However, guide dogs are trained in the art of “selective disobedience” or “intelligent disobedience”, and will refuse to obey an order if they can see that it would be dangerous to do so. Nor do the guide dogs lead their handlers on journeys; they are led by the handler’s signals. So what are the dogs for? Chiefly, to guide their humans around obstacles (such as street furniture, and low overhangs), and to stop at certain places where a decision is needed, such as road crossings, stairs and lifts.
www.guidedogs.org.uk/microsites/sponsor-a-puppy/blogs/2015/may/ the-myths-and-facts-around-guide-dogs; www.dogster.com/lifestyle/ guide-dogs-for-the-blind-misconceptions; www.tricitynews.com/news/ ten-myths-about-guide-dogs-1.433167; http://www.kidzworld.com/ article/1117-how-guide-dogs-work
If you are a guide-dog user – or indeed a guide dog – please do let us know which bits we’ve got wrong.
A reader who is also a police officer asks about chalk (or tape) outlines of murder victims; he’s never seen one, and suspects that these days such contamination of a crime scene would be frowned upon. But, he wants to know, was there ever a time when chalk outlines did exist, or are they pure Hollywood?