Dear Guide Dog of the Year
I would like to nominate my three year old, Labrador, cross golden retriever, cross Labrador, Calvin, in the Beyond the Call of Duty category. I am aware that this category is usually reserved for Guide Dogs that take their work more seriously than other dogs, such as saving their owner from falling into a ditch or jumping into a river to save a drowning child, however, I feel that my Calvin takes his work to another level on a daily basis.
When I first applied for a Guide Dog and watched my visually impaired friends with their dogs, I was under the impression that they were extremely clever and well behaved animals. So, after nearly two years of waiting impatiently, I was excited that my life was going to be made a whole lot easier when out and about. Yes, at first I was slightly alarmed by Calvin’s size in comparison to me, as the first time he greeted me, his giant paws latched onto my shoulders! At this point, I had no idea that the Guide Dog I was being matched with was going to be, shall we say, a special case!
I should have known from that very first walk we had together. Calvin insisted on testing my reflexes, as he thought it would be hilarious to chase a squirrel. I was instantly reassured that this was out of character for him and I naively believed it. Turns out, Calvin loves nothing more than to chase things and is adamant that his sudden outbursts aid my ability to react quickly and effectively, which will ensure I’m always out of the blocks first in a race. Among his favourite things to chase are: other dogs, cats, birds, horses, runners, balls, Frisbees, leaves, floating litter and familiar people. Remarkably, there has only been one fatality, which was a poor pigeon, however, there have been countless distraught children after their game of football has been brought to an abrupt end with a burst ball. Calvin would like to take this opportunity to apologise for his actions, he’s always just as surprised as the children when the ball goes pop and naturally offers to replace it.
Many members of the public believe that a Guide Dog knows when it is safe to cross the road. This is a myth. Although Guide Dogs have some traffic training, they have little or no knowledge of safety. Calvin feels because he is unable to judge danger that it is important that I am kept up to date with my awareness. The first major test was when he casually walked across the train track when the barriers were coming down to indicate a train was coming. He has followed this up by crossing roads diagonally, not stopping at curbs and walking straight out, drifting into the road off of a flat curb, going when he feels like it over a road, stops in the middle to pick something up or sticks his head out a little bit too far. I am pleased to report that Calvin has enhanced my safety skills immensely and we’ve never been injured to date. There have been times where people have horned us or shouted out of their car windows though.
My Calvin is a dog of the community. He believes it is his duty to greet every person he sees in the street. This could be a slight pause as we pass by, a quick sniff of their crotch or if they smile at him, they may get a full blown cuddle, as he wraps his paws around their neck. They are often stunned by the latter, I can only assume because they are not used to seeing such a caring, sociable dog. Whilst working, Calvin multi-tasks as the local litter picker. Collecting wrappers, bottles, cans, twigs, horse muck, in fact anything that enters his path. Unfortunately, he usually swallows his findings, before a suitable disposal place has been found. Come bin day, his work never stops. He acts as the dustbin men’s little helper, as he stops by every box that is aptly around head height for Calvin, to check that residents have put the correct items in the appropriate colour coded boxes. Calvin is also a bit of an educator to the children in the community. He found a dead rabbit on the road side at the same time the pupils of the local primary school were heading home. He felt it necessary to give them a lesson in the circle of life, as we paraded the streets, unknown to me until we got home with him carrying the deceased bunny in his mouth.
As you can see Calvin always aims to take his work beyond its boundaries. When out food shopping, he enjoys helping out. He has been seen picking up fresh begets in Asda and recently tried to grab a Kinder Egg for the trolley, but ended up swallowing it whole, foil, chocolate, toy and all! He insists that it is unhealthy to rush, so takes our journeys casually, stopping to sniff lampposts and bushes. He’s an explorative animal, constantly seeking out new routes for us to take and obviously in search of new places to go, as we tend to end up somewhere unexpected. Finally, Calvin is a born leader. When out with others or with a group of Guide Dogs, he has to be at the front of the pack, guiding the way.
Some might think my Calvin is a disobedient nightmare, I think he is a legend! I’ve never met another Guide Dog that goes beyond the call of duty every time their harness is strapped on. Therefore, I hope Calvin can be awarded this prestigious prize and his hard work recognised.
Yours in puppy love
Selina Litt (proud owner of Calvin)