by Gerri Hirshey
Finished June 5, 2010
This book is about guide dogs for the blind, specifically guide dogs from the Fidelco organization. At times the book reads like an advertisement for Fidelco, but it is still fascinating.
Fidelco (a word combination of Fidelity and Cooperation) was founded by Charlie Kaman and his wife Robbie (pronounced "robey"). Charlie Kaman founded an aviation and aerospace corporation and he invented the Ovation guitar. As if that wasn't enough, he and his wife took their hobby of breeding and training German Shepherds and turned it into a successful organization dedicated to giving blind people new lives through guide dogs.
Fidelco is different from most guide dog organizations. Most require the person to attend training at the organizations' facilities. Fidelco will send a dog and trainer to the person where they will train for as long as it takes in real-life situations.
The best parts of this book are the anecdotes from the people featured in each chapter. They each tell the story of how they became blind and what led them to get a guide dog. The dogs are amazing. They're not only guides, but protectors and friends. There are several stories of the dogs' uncanny ability to sense diabetic seizures or pregnancy. "Trust the dog" is the title of the book and is the lesson that is sometimes hardest to learn. But in a few instances, near disaster is averted by trusting the dog.
"...after a heavy overnight thunderstorm, they head out for an early morning walk in Windsor... They are on a quiet street, walking at a relaxed pace, when Nemo stops short again and cuts in front of her, pulling her off course and to the side. He is so firm - Mary can sense his tension - that she decides to turn around and go back.Since she likes to check on such unusual behavior, she asks a friend - a mobility instructor - to return to the spot with her and see what stopped the dog. Nearing the place, her friend gasps. 'I don't believe it.' Just past the spot Nemo had stopped, a live electrical wire downed by the storm dangles at chest level."Another story about Nemo:
"When Mary's diabetes caused an insulin imbalance and she fainted at a bus stop, Nemo lay down next to her, head and paws on her body and would not move. The site of the large long haired German Shepherd guarding her did cause some consternation among the EMT workers, until animal control officers took him gently into custody and Mary could be loaded into an ambulance."
Fidelco dogs are always German Shepherds bred from Bavarian stock. It's amazing how just the right dog can be paired with a person. Each person is evaluated for lifestyle, temperament, living conditions, abilities and is given a dog that will work in the given situation.
Every time I read a book like this, it makes me want to get a dog. But I'm sure I'd be disappointed if it weren't an amazing super dog like the ones in this book.