GUIDE DOG TALES VOL. 11
By Carolyn Dale Newell
My smile went from ear-to-ear. My heart filled with pride. Iva, my black Labrador guide dog, had just successfully walked past several pieces of chicken laying upon the Walmart floor. Several weeks earlier, she snatched up the popcorn chicken that I quickly retrieved from her mouth.
Why the big deal with eating a piece of chicken, you ask? There are the unwanted calories, plus the possibility of digestive upset. You do not want to be out with your guide when they get diarrhea. I do not want Iva enjoying human food. Can you imagine the trouble I would encounter at a Chick Filet? All of these are great reasons to avoid nearby food, but the greatest one is my safety.
Food is one of the many distractions guide dog handlers deal with. There are many others, but the most common are food, dogs, and people. Any preoccupation steals Iva’s focus from me and my safety placing it on an undesired object. Her eyes are my eyes. She must be watching where I am going, since I am unable to do so.
This is the same reason you don’t talk to a guide dog when it is working. You also should not pet them or even make eye contact with them. My training supervisor at Guiding Eyes,Woody, told us that it is the equivalent of someone grabbing your steering wheel while you are driving.
What can I do when Iva’s attention is diverted? She gets a leash correction with a loud “No”. During our daily obedience exercises, I have added food distractions, and that may have made the difference this time.
Guide dogs are not the only ones who need to avoid distractions. Christians need to avoid them too, paying careful attention to always focus on God. Do you remember when Peter wanted to walk on water? He was successful until he took his eyes off Jesus and placed them on the churning waves.
We follow in Peter’s footsteps so often. A problem comes along. It grabs our attention until it becomes bigger than life, but never bigger than God. Instead of our problems consuming us, allow God to consume our problems.
The world and our flesh can also move our focus from God. A schedule that gets busier. A calendar that gets over crowded. A hobby that keeps us from church, the Bible, and finally, God. Nothing sinful, but we become absorbed with these innocent time-stealers. Perhaps that is what the writer of Hebrews referred to when he penned:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1 NKJV
These distractions are the excess weight we must lay aside.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit will aid us with our human distractions. Attention thieves will always be with us. They are a natural part of life, and a normal part of guide dog life too.
Copyright 2017 Carolyn Dale Newell.