Judi Jasek is a blind
woman who has a guide dog named Ean. She works for the Catholic Guild for the Blind, an
organization that supplies blind people with items unavailable in stores.
How many guide dogs have you
Ean is my third guide
How long have you had
I've had Ean for six and a half years. He was a year and a half
when I got him.
How are the dogs
I got him from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, a school that
breeds and trains puppies to be guide dogs. They are tested when they're eight weeks old, which 20
percent don't pass, usually because they are afraid of sudden noises.
that pass are placed in puppy raiser homes for a year, where they are taught basic obedience, and
not to bark. When they are six months old they get a cape that says "Guiding Eyes For the
Blind: Guide Dog Puppy in Training. " The trainers have permission to take the dogs into
stores and other places to get them used to being in public. During this year of training, the dogs
are evaluated monthly. Some do very well and others are dismissed because of problems like being
carsick or too wild.
After the year with the puppy raiser, they go back to the
school and are evaluated again. If they pass, they go into a five-month training program where
professional dog trainers teach them to guide, lead and make traffic judgments and decisions.
The last month of training is when the owner steps in. For a first dog, an
owner goes to school for four weeks, for subsequent dogs, three weeks. The whole process takes a
year and a half.
How much do the dogs cost, and how valuable
There is no cost to me as the recipient; I am not charged
for the school, the airfare to New York, the room and board, or the training. The value of the dog
from the time it is bred to when an owner receives him or her
Can you tell me any interesting stories about
Ean is a very quiet dog. He instantly felt at home when we
moved. He has discovered that in summer he can push the door latch up with his Frisbee and
go outside. For a long time he was the only guide dog at my office, but now there is another one. He
is very submissive, but has exerted his dominance as top dog in the office.
is extremely bright. He has incredible route memory. I have a subscription to the Chicago Symphony,
and even if I don't go for six months, he still remembers the seats. We go to one of our favorite
hotels once a year and try to get the same room every time. When we get there, he goes right to that
A lot of people think that with a guide dog you can say 'Take me to the
bank!' and he'll lead you there, but it's not true. The dogs are trained to walk in a straight line
and not to walk on the grass or check out the neighbor's cat. They are trained to avoid obstacles
and to stop at a down curb. I have to give him verbal directions, like "forward"
or"right. " He gets me from point A to point B, then I tell him where to go from
there. I always have a map inside my head of where I am going.
If there is a
problem, he'll disobey my command. For example, if it snows or rains, the alley behind my office
floods. Once, we were leaving when it had rained the day before. I forgot about the flooding and
told Ean to go right, but he wouldn't. I told him again and he sat down. So, when the light changed
he moved across the street and to the side. Then I realized why he wouldn't go through the alley. He
tries to avoid things like patches of ice when he can, and slows down in the snow.
Another misconception about guide dogs is that they read traffic lights, which
isn't true at all. I am trained to listen for traffic and move with parallel traffic, so I am the
one who decides when to cross the street, not Ean.
Before you can get a guide
dog, you are trained to listen for that. You have to know where you are and be able to create a map
inside your head for the orientation part of the training. You have to be able to use a
cane properly before you can get a dog. The trainer at the school says that if you can't use a cane,
a guide dog is only a faster way to get lost.
places that won't let you in with your dog?
No, all 50 states have a
law that allows guide dogs access to any place that you or I can go, like stores, movie theaters,
restaurants, public transportation - anywhere. People are pretty much aware of the law so they
don't have a problem with it.
You work for the Catholic Guild
for the Blind. What does it do?
It is a private nonprofit
organization. We have a consumer product center where blind people can buy items they need but
can't find at a regular store, like Braille wall calendars and magnifiers and other things like
that. We also have a computer center where we teach people to use computers. We have a tape-lending
library with over 500 books, we have seminars and do service presentations, and we have a
children's education center and a senior services center. It is a walk-in store, but you have to
know we're there. My job is to coordinate the products.
does Ean's harness work?
When I hold the leash, I control him; when I
hold the handle, he controls me. I am supposed to stand so that he is a step in front of me. Guide
dogs work for praise not food, so I have to talk constantly to Ean and tell him what a good job he
What kind of dogs are usually used as guide
Ninety-five percent of guide dogs are Labradors. Years ago,
they used German shepherds, but they're a lot more temperamental than Labradors. All of mine have
been Labradors. I have been using guide dogs for 20years.
there any other interesting information you have about guide dogs or about your
One interesting thing is that 80 percent of people who are
considered blind have some degree of residual sight. Some have light perception, some have shape
and shadow perception, some people who are legally blind can even read large print. If your vision
is 20/200 or worse, you are legally blind.
Another thing is that when Ean is
not working, he's just a dog. He has more toys than my
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.