By: Jake Koch, GDB graduate and alumni representative
There are many reasons why a guide dog makes a great travel companion both in college and in life. Here are five good reasons:
Most colleges and universities are relatively large, sprawling and beautiful places; complete with winding sidewalks and often unidentifiable tactual landmarks. The physical layout of the modern campus is spreading outside the box. A guide dog is trained to assist a blind or visually impaired person in achieving safe and efficient travel. Guide dogs can be taught to stop at specific entrances to buildings, or intersections of sidewalks. In addition, guide dogs, by virtue of their training lead a blind or visually impaired person in a straight line. These two important attributes increase efficiency in travel, and reduce confusion for a person who is blind or visually impaired.
You will soon become one of the most popular and easily recognized students on campus
It is hard to stand out amongst 10,000 plus students. However, a person traveling with a guide dog has a significant positive advantage. Many people love dogs, and guide dogs are no exception. Embrace the attention; a guide dog is a great icebreaker! I suggest answering 2-3 guide dog specific questions, then say something like “do you have dogs at home?” People really enjoy talking about their lives, and are often happy to tell you about their animals or experiences. Giving the other person an opportunity to talk about a common subject with a blind or visually impaired guide dog handler will reduce their reservations about talking with that person.
Confidence breeds confidence
Many of our graduates tell us that a guide dog increases their confidence significantly. If a guide dog brings confidence in travel, it's likely that a person who is blind or visually impaired will be more confident as well.
A guide dog is the best roommate ever
Most college students either live in a dorm room, or an apartment close to campus. Both options usually contain roommates that you may or may not see eye-to-eye with. Simply put, a guide dog is the best roommate ever! A guide dog won't steal your food, make a mess of your living space or bring a bunch of crazy friends over to hang out at 3 A.M.
Your guide dog can help you get involved with student activities both on and off campus
You as a blind or visually impaired person have learned to get around campus and have met a few of your classmates. Now you want to get involved with some student activities. If you can navigate your college campus, you can get around just about anywhere, and that is exciting! You are free to come and go as you please, and your guide dog will help you get to and from your destination. Everybody wants to hang out with the awesome student with the cool dog; so round up some of your new found friends and go on an adventure.
Even though the challenge of college/university life may be daunting, having a guide dog by your side makes the experience that much better. One thing is for certain, a guide dog may not be able to do your homework for you, but he or she certainly won't eat it either!