Tag Archives: guide dog

Thunder Dog – book review

Thunder Dog

Thunder Dog tells the story of Michael Hingson and Roselle, his guide dog.  Michael was working in the World Trade Center’s North Tower on the 78th floor on the morning of September 11, 2001.  The book gets its title from the fact that Roselle was very afraid of thunder and, during the wee hours of September 11th, there had been a thunder storm which woke both dog and handler – with handler providing emotional support.

The book starts with a chapter ‘Goodbye to a Hero’ in which Hingson tells us that Roselle died on June 26, 2011.  This is not entirely surprising – virtually all of the dogs who had involvement in 9/11 have since passed away.  It is, sadly, to be expected.

This book is written in a conversational style, as if Hingson was giving an interview (he did, many in fact, after the 9/11 attacks – television presenter Larry King writes the Foreward to the book).  It makes for very easy reading.

Interspersed with chapters detailing the long walk down from the 78th floor as dog and handler evacuated, Hingson tells us more about his life.  He wasn’t born blind, for example.  He was a premature baby and back when he was born, babies were put into incubators with a very high oxygen environment (it wasn’t until later when many babies ended up surviving, but blind, that doctors became aware of the cause).  Roselle was not Hingson’s first guide dog, either.  And Hingson’s parents encouraged him to explore his world; he even rode a bicycle around his neighborhood without assistance – learning to navigate by echolocation.

But the horrors of that day, and the strong bond between man and dog are what this book is really about.  How Hingson had to rely on Roselle more than ever, whilst remaining calm for her so she could do her job.  And how Roselle offered terrified people emotional support on a day like no other.  Hingson’s recollections of short conversations with firefighters who were climbing up the tower to fight the fire and assist in rescue are most poignant.

Roselle’s legacy lives on in the Roselle’s Dream Foundation which has since been established by Mr Hingson to honor her memory.  Throughout the book, Hingson emphasizes that being blind did not stop him from having a normal life and so the Foundation does its best to support scholarships to enable blind people to live their lives to the fullest.  The Foundation also exists to educate the sighted about blindness.

A book well worth reading.  It spent time on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Introduced by their guide dogs

Here’s a romance story to start your weekend.

Claire Johnson and Mark Gaffey from Stoke-on-Trent are an engaged couple with a twist.  They met because of their dogs – their guide dogs.

Claire Johnson and Mark Gaffey  with their guide dogs, Venice and Rodd.  copyright Dave Evitts

Claire Johnson and Mark Gaffey with their guide dogs, Venice and Rodd. copyright Dave Evitts

Claire was matched in 2011 with Venice and Mark at the same time with Rodd.  They met at guide dog training, when both Venice and Rodd found they liked one another and would bring their new handlers together for a chat whilst they explored and snuggled together.

When both owners and dogs returned to Stoke-on-Trent (they discovered they lived near one another, although they had never met before), they stayed in touch, meeting for coffee, lunches and other dates.

On Valentine’s Day 2013, Mark popped the question.  The couple will be married in March 2014 with their dogs as ring bearers.

Claire and Rodd tell the story of how they met in this YouTube video:

Betty – A Special Seeing Eye Dog

This week, actress Betty White celebrated her 90th birthday.  It’s quite a milestone.   She’s received a lot of attention over the years and not just for her acting.  Ms White has a long history of animal advocacy work and many charities have benefited from her support.

The Seeing Eye, Inc., an organisation founded in 1929, has named a puppy after Betty.  Based in Morristown, New Jersey, the Seeing Eye is the oldest existing guide dog school in the world and it has trademarked the term “seeing eye” so that only dogs from its school can be called seeing eye dogs.  That’s why guide dog puppies here in New Zealand are called guide dogs whereas folks from the United States often call them seeing eye dogs.

Betty, the Seeing Eye dog named after actress Betty White

Ms White first recorded a radio public service announcement for The Seeing Eye in the 1980s in which she helped remind everyone about the requirement to allow guide dogs access to public transport.  You can listen to that announcement here.

In 1987, the American Veterinary Medical Association gave Betty its Humane Award for charity work for animals.  Ms White has a bronze plaque at the Los Angeles Zoo (near the gorilla exhibit) which also honours her work for animals.  In 2010, she was even granted the title of honorary forest ranger by the US Forest Service!

Happy birthday Betty!  And may Betty the Seeing Eye Dog have a long career!

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand