“It’s a blind trust,” Dodd said. “I have to put my trust in something that I know is there, but I can’t see exactly what she sees. I have to have blind trust in the dog just as much as I have to have blind trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dodd, Ottawa, was the recent recipient of a guide dog because of his deteriorating vision, he said. Dodd and Cassidy, a black lab, recently graduated from a guide dog training program in Washington, Kan.
KSDS Inc., is a nonprofit organization that provides individuals who are visually impaired or physically disabled with highly trained canine assistance and support. Before graduation from KSDS, guide dogs and their owners go through extensive training, Dodd said.
“The classes were three weeks long,” he said. “We learned obedience and the commands. As time went on, we learned curbs, elevators, escalators, revolving doors and distractions. Lastly, we had to take a test to make sure we could handle our dogs in public.”
The relationship between a guide dog and its owner is a special one, Dodd said. Once Cassidy’s harness is off, she’s free to be a regular dog.
“She’s my honey,” he said. “She helps me from walking out in front of cars and tripping over curbs and keeps me balanced when I go upstairs and downstairs. When we’re walking she does just about everything to keep me as safe as she can.”
Matching the right dog with the right owner isn’t always easy, Dodd said. A series of interviews are given to the recipient to understand his or her needs and personality to match the person with a dog that best fits his or her needs.
Though guide dogs are trained to work, they also are able to be house dogs and companions too, Dodd said. He and Cassidy play outside together when she’s not guiding him across town.
“If we’re out in the backyard playing, she’ll do fetch really good,” he said. “My other dog that I have here at home as a pet, they like to run and chase each other through the backyard.”
From time to time, Cassidy might need more training on certain commands, Dodd said, but trainers from KSDS are always available to help.
“I can call up Debbie, the trainer, and say ‘Debbie, ya know I’m having trouble with Cassidy doing this,’” he said. “She’s available to come out, even though it’s about a three-and-a-half hour drive.”
Dodd said he’s just glad to be able to get out of the house and moving again, thanks to Cassidy.
“I’m on cloud nine,” he said. “I felt so relieved that I was able to get out again. My other dog, it was time to retire him, so this just worked out really good.”
In addition to increasing Dodd’s mobility, Cassidy likes to give and receive affection, he said. It’s one of his favorite traits about her.
“She likes to give lovin’,” he said. “She’ll put her paws on each shoulder and rub her face against your face. And she likes me to serenade her.”
Dodd said he’s grateful to have received Cassidy and thankful he is able to get around again.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I’m just as happy as a lark.”