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Woofing in Partnership


It’s a partnership.

Mummy might be the senior partner but it’s still a partnership.

Our partnership is formalised with a written contract (always a good idea), which Mummy signed when we qualified together. Daddy often quotes from the contract when my cousin Heidi tries to bend the rules. Our contract sets out our responsibilities and our work together is assessed regularly by Guide Dogs. Mummy and I passed our appraisal in December with flying colours. They assessed how well we work together and our need for any further training. Mummy and I are hoping to do advanced escalator training and get our escalator badge so we can use the underground when we go to London. At present, I’m not allowed to go on escalators unless Mummy carries me and I weigh about 30 kilos. About 5% of guide dogs are escalator trained.

Neither a guide dog nor their owner can cross the street alone without risk, but together, we do it efficiently and safely. Mummy and I work as a team by each of us contributing to our relationship built on trust that began during class and has deepened and broadened over time. I’ve been working for over two years now so I know Mummy very well and she knows me. After two years I feel very confident and secure so I am doing my best work.

The cornerstone of our training was for me, through repetition, treats and praise, to learn if need be, to respectfully disobey Mummy’s command, an act known as ‘permitted disobedience’ (Another one of those great Guide Dog terms). Mummy not only directs me but also supports my decisions, even when I disobey. Sometimes I have to stand up to Mummy, to get it through to her that something is there that she can’t see and then find a way to get us out of a dangerous situation. If a dog isn’t comfortable holding his ground he isn’t suited to being a guide dog. Sometimes when a dog realises he is responsible for the person at the other end of the handle – it is a deal-breaker and the end of Guide Dog training.

Mummy thinks the best examples of partnership working were the two guide dog partnerships caught up in 9/11. Dorado led his owner Omar Riviera down seventy stories and out of Tower One just before it collapsed. It took Roselle over an hour to bring Michael Hingston down seventy-eight stories and out of the same building. Wow, that is great stair work in what was noisy, dangerous and chaotic conditions. It makes our fire drills at Westgate Chambers seem like puppy’s play but don’t tell Auntie Rosie I said that.

Dorado and Roselle got their respective partners out of the World Trade Centre because they were loyal. They had strong bonds with their respective partners. Omar tried to release Dorado so Dorado would have a better chance at survival, but Dorado would not leave Omar’s side. Similarly, Michael wanted to give up and wanted Roselle to go off with someone else but she wouldn’t leave without Michael. We are pack animals and we stick with our pack.

Mummy was lucky enough to meet Roselle and Michael when she visited the Guide Dog training school near San Francisco. Prior to 9/11 Michael was an advertising manager and after 9/11 he became a full-time speaker for Guide Dogs in America. Michael said that Roselle gave the firemen doggie kisses when they passed on the stairs and needed a big drink when they got out.

After 9/11 special search and rescue dogs worked around the clock to search for survivors and victims in the rubble of the World Trade Centre – another very dangerous job and example of great partnership working.

Dogs like to share responsibility across the pack. They tune into each other’s needs and emotions by observing certain responses and cues. The pack knows one another as well as they know themselves. If you develop a culture of woofing in partnership you are far more likely to succeed.