Blind Vet’s Guide Dog is More than a Mobility Aidby Jacqueline Bull March 1, 2019
Dany Layani lost his sight at 20 years old, serving in the IDF. Five years later, in 1987, he traveled to New York and received his first guide dog. Now, he is with his fifth guide dog, and considers the guide dog part of his life and himself.
“The first time that I walked with [my first guide dog], I felt real freedom. To be alone, for the first time, only the guide dog and me,” Dany said.
Before the guide dog, he was always guid- ed by a family member or friend. Now, he starts his day with the guide dog; they go to work together, they go to the park together, they meet people together and they end the day together.
“The guide dog is part of my life, it’s part of me.The guide dog changed my life, the guide dog gave me an opportunity to be in- dependent. With a guide dog, I feel or I felt that has pushed me to do many things to make good decisions for me,” Dany said.
“I tried to use cane, you know for blind people are more isolated, and with a guide dog, it is different because people will approach the dog. It is a good way to contact other people … They ask them questions about the dog, they want to pet the dog, they always have something to say about the dog. If it is a pretty dog, they find some- thing to say,” Dany said.
This is something that differs from guide dogs in the U.S. The Israel Guide Dog’s philosophy places value on the how the dog can help the client be less isolated and more social.
“That is a different philosophy from many schools take that dogs shouldn’t be approached while it’s working, which is true to a certain extent with us as well. We don’t like the dog to be distracted while working, but we do regard the dog very much as an ice breaker and something that allows the person to be part of society, so it is not a no- no like some of the schools in America. We try set the rules how you can interact with public, so you are not always saying ‘Don’t touch my dog, it’s working,’” Rafi Taglicht, Senior Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, said.
The British Guide Dog School philosophy is an influence on how the Israel Guide Dog school is run.
“The British Guide Dog School has this slogan, ‘Since I got my guide dog, I never stopped bumping into people.’ Meaning that the guide dog is a catalyst for meeting people and interactions with people, and I think that is a very big truth. Because it gets the person out of the house, first of all, it gives them a mobility aid then always no one will come up to you and say, ‘What a beautiful cane you have,’” Rafi said.
Another difference from American guide dog schools is the puppy raisers.
“I think what is special about the Israeli program is very different from yours is we use mainly university students as puppy raisers. Not all of them, but a big majority of them are students in universities which is a win-win situation. The students enjoy very much having the dogs on campus with them and the dogs are very well socialized due to the lifestyle of the students. They use public transport, walk a lot and they have a very full social life, so the dogs get socialized very well,” Rafi said.
Rafi gave an example of a misconception. People believe the dog decides when to cross the street by responding to the traffic light, when in reality it is the person giving the command to cross. The guide dog has learned intelligent disobedience and will avoid going forward if there is a car approaching to communicate to the client that it is not safe to cross.
“I think many people think that guide dogs are almost – that they take control of the situation, when it is usually very much a teamwork. So they think that the person using the guide dog is passive, where the person using the guide dog is really quite a capable person,” Rafi said.