Complex route for a guide dog

I’d like to detail a route that my new guide, Dave, is learning.
From my house it includes a 9-block walk containing straightforward crossings with one exception: a street with a large obstacle involved in the underground gas line which stands immediately in the crosswalk. Dave needs to step to the right around that and then veer left, but not so left that he moves into the oncoming parallel traffic.
At the end of the nine blocks, he and I must find a parking lot for Chatham University. This is not made easier by construction in the sidewalk that precedes the lot, requiring him to step right into a neighbor’s lawn and walk for about ten feet before returning to the sidewalk. Great smells abound in this small detour, so Dave’s nose has trouble returning to the less fragrant concrete path. And with this detour I should mention that I completely lose track of my place in the 200 steps I’m counting in order to give him a right turn command into the lot. Nevertheless Dave swings right at the perfect moment.
“Yay, Dave,” I cry, “good boy.”
But alas, the praise doesn’t lead to a perfect journey across the lot. Here in this wide expanse, I have no cars to parallel, no grass shoreline, nothing tactile or auditory to help me help Dave. I must traverse about sixty feet of macadam, but mostly Dave’s on his own in search of some elusive concrete steps north and another set west to put me on campus. Instead Dave finds a ramp which is a beautiful and useful construction, I’m sure, but not what I’m seeking. Ah, a human being to help us, and we make it to the crisscrossing pathways, hoping to find the one that leads to a Coolidge classroom door.
It was at this point that my second dog Ursula usually gave up. Too many paths, too many dogs and animals of larger construction, like deer, too many smiling, friendly coeds heading down alternate paths. Why not follow them?
Now with Dave from the top step I give the forward command. I count about 20 paces, then say, “Dave, left.”
Dave gives a little leap, and I know he’s on the case. He wants to fly along the path. Midair, following him, I reach forward and feel his ears pinned back. He’s in full throttle, piloting us to our landing. The closer he gets to the destination door, the speedier he walks so I’m sure we’ll both blow through the goal, the glass doors.
“Voila!” he seems to say and his ears shoot to the sky and his mouth stretches into a grin.
“Good boy,” I say, and open the door.
Together we run up the dozen steps, blast through the second floor door and swing into room 232, triumphant.
Now if we can just knock that parking lot out of the park!

About Sally Hobart Alexander

Blinded at the age of twenty-six, I left California and elementary school teaching for life in Pittsburgh, Pa. There, I met my husband, got a Masters' degree in social work, had two kids, now 35 and 32, and became a writer. Surprisingly, the writing career led me full-circle to teaching, and I teach in Chatham University's M.F.A. program and lead two writing critique groups. Always, since the age of 26, I have traveled, not in the stereotypic darkness attributed to blindness, but a mist. My blog then, "traveling through the mist" will deal with issues in my culturally different life as a blind writer, teacher, speaker, and human being.
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