Pay Attention


Pay Attention

     "Pay attention Dude, you've got the only set of eyes here; though they are only hooked up to a doggy brain." Said Mark. He and his long time friend Miranda and her new dog guide were at the crosswalk of a very busy intersection. "I'd hate to get creamed by a half dozen cars on my way to the coffee shop. So let's save the cream for the java, Dude."

     "Mark, don't you be bad! Polo is young, but he's shaping up to be a great guide." Miranda leaned down and stroked the alert dog's head. "And if you aren't sweet, Polo here, won't share any of his biscuits with you."

     "Yeah, yeah, yeah." Mark continued in a tone of light humor. "You guys get around great. I'm just thinking about how they say dogs are color blind, so I'd just suggest that you tell young Polo to pay attention to the cars and not watch the lights."

     "Oh shut up and get your cane moving." Miranda said, stepping out as the flow of traffic had shifted, cars at their left stopping. "And you're going to buy."

     Cane tapping, Mark kept pace off Miranda's shoulder. "Sorry, I didn't hear what you just said, but I sure heard the traffic patterns change to our favor."

     Later, finishing at the coffee shop, Miranda rose first. "I need to stop by the department store and pick up something."

     Approaching the entrance to the multi-level store building, Mark said, "Those revolving-doors sure stand out; great sound-cue."

     "Yeah, Polo is real good about judging when to get in." And dog and woman team stepped in and were gone.

     Mark reached out with the shaft of his cane, found the moving edge of a door section and quickly followed.

     Inside they took the escalator up. Then after getting business over, Miranda said, "Hey, we might as well take the elevators. They’re right here in the corner and down on first they’re right where the outside doors are for the direction we need to go."

     "Okay, sliding or lifting or walking down, it's all down to me." Said Mark.

     At the elevator, Mark arrived first and pressed the button. "Ever notice that most times they station a waste can or can of some type right under where the buttons are?" Tapping the receptacle with his cane tip as he spoke. "Makes it easier, so ah, we ‘CAN' find them."

     With the sound of the doors opening, Mark said, "Four-legs before two." Giving his friend a slight bow.

     "Sure, right." Said Miranda. "Forward." She commanded Polo. "Polo, Hup-Hup, forward." She said again to her non-responsive guide.

     "STOP! Back up!" Yelled a woman who had just arrived at the elevators. "There's nothing there!" And the doors banged shut.

     "No." Said a second woman. "I think it was those black inner-doors."

     "No!" Said the first woman. "I saw cables."

     "OH MY GOD!" Said Miranda. "I stuck my foot in there and all there was…was air!"

     "Good boy, Polo! You paid attention." Said Mark, gripping his cane, thinking back over how often he had stepped into elevators with little or no thought.


e-mail responses to

**1. This story seems to have two wonderful morals: select the tool that fits your needs and preferences; and, use the tool skillfully.

Over the years I've spent a good deal of time explaining my personal preference to use a white cane not a guide dog. And, it really has been personal preference. I like a very uncluttered personal space. I also like to restrict the numbers of ways that other living beings impact me. I choose to have employees; I choose to have no plants in my office. I choose not to have a guide dog. The romanticism surrounding dog guides maintained by heart-warming literature and human interest stories in the press just can't be counteracted by any story I can concoct concerning my lovely carbon fiber collapsible cane. So, I get the questions about why I don't have a dog and get the opportunity to talk about the choices we get to make because there are two very different kinds of guidance tools.

The safe and appropriate use of the tools illustrated by the elevator and the additional safety system provided by the dog over poor use of the cane sparks my amusement. There probably isn't a better example where the dog did its job properly, was almost ignored to the detriment of the user, and the cane user was only lucky that he didn't misuse his cane and have an accident.

I delight in the notion that I as a blind individual have the privilege to make a choice of tools, to make good or poor use of it, and have the intelligence and wisdom to grasp the consequences of each.

Davey Hulse, CEO
Braille Plus, Inc.
PO Box 3686
3276 Commercial Street SE
Salem, Oregon 97302

Phone: (503) 391-5335
Toll Free: (866) 264-2345
Fax: (503) 391-9359

**2. Thought Provoker: Pay Attention!

If you asked the average sighted person, not very familiar with blindness, whether a blind person could ever get around independently, this scenario is exactly what might come to mind as justification for a "no" response. It is very spectacular, the results of a mistake are clearly deadly, and a sighted person is needed to avert a disaster. But in reality it's a no-brainer, and the essential wisdom is contained in the story's title: "Pay attention!"
The dog in this story did exactly what guide dogs are supposed to do; it refused to lead Miranda into a dangerous situation. If Mark had gone first and used proper mobility techniques, his cane would have done what canes are supposed to do; it would have dropped over the edge of the opening and alerted him that it was not safe to cross the threshold. If Miranda were to ignore Polo's clear signs that something was amiss, her fate could be predicted pretty accurately. And if Mark were to ignore the information coming from his cane, his fate would be equally predictable.
The fact is that most of us will go a lifetime without ever encountering an empty elevator shaft, however horrifying the prospect may be to contemplate. It is also true that an occasional sighted person, distracted and not paying attention, falls down an elevator shaft. It makes for dramatic headlines and provokes outrage over elevator safety. But in this story the greatest danger faced by Mark and Miranda comes at the beginning of the story--crossing the street--and they use their skills to negotiate it successfully.
Of course we should all pay attention. Of course we occasionally let our guard down or become distracted. Of course there are dangers lurking out there at unexpected times. But let's not conclude that blind people are only safe if there is a sighted person around to come to the rescue!

Carolyn Brock Portland, Oregon

**3. I read a similar story years ago, but this didn't involve a blind person--just someone who is so used to stepping into an elevator car without looking. The story appeared in Guide Post. This gentleman heard an audible voice say "Stop!" It was then he noticed the door opening onto the absence of the car. Ever since I read that story, I feel first with my foot before actually entering the car and putting my weight on that foot.

Judy Jones NFB blparent mailing list

**4. I'm not sure if the point of this story is to laud the capabilities of a good dog guide, decry the potential consequences of a moment of inattention (in this story by the cane traveler) or what, but I can share the following:

First, as someone who has traveled with both canes and dog guides, I can assure you that both methods of travel have their advantages and disadvantages. When I travel with a dog, I can go faster, and there are many situations where I can afford to focus less on the journey and more on my inner thoughts, a conversation with a walking companion, or the sounds and smells of the trip. For me, traveling with a dog guide allows me to maintain a better sense of direction and a better overall sense of the trip because I can focus on the forest of blocks traversed, changes in neighborhood character and traffic patterns that signify that I've crossed from one neighborhood into another, which actually makes it possible to forget about blocks walked. Meanwhile, the dog guide can worry about the little details of the individual trees of the trip--things like avoiding the tipped over trash can or the row of parking meters with protruding front fenders, the row of stupidly placed newspaper racks and the telephone pole right in the middle of the sidewalk or the pretty planters which are right in the middle of the cluttered sidewalk next to the café with all the pedestrians standing around blocking what's left of the path of travel. In short, rather than banging my way through the maze and milieu of a complicated pedestrian environment with a cane, I can let the dog do the heavy lifting, and I can just focus on the mental side of just knowing where I want to go and the actual route (blocks, streets, crossings, etc.) to get there. On the other hand, there are times when dog guides actually make the trip harder. Dog guides are trained to avoid obstacles, and sometimes, a particular sign post or set of news racks or retaining wall can be a great landmark. Sometimes, I want to walk down an alley, which the dog will pass because it doesn't look like the sidewalked streets we usually use.
Sometimes, I want to change a regular route to go somewhere slightly different, and my well-trained dog guide is convinced that I'm off my rocker today, thus he ends up trying to rescue me, while I'm trying to convince him that I'm still in charge, and we're doing something different today. So if the story in the thought provoker is trying to argue one side or the other, I take exception. Both dog and cane have their place, and depending on one's preferences, one or the other, or both, may be the method of choice.
BTW: I include myself in this last group. While I generally prefer traveling with my guide, there are specific occasions when I'll opt for my long cane, and I consider it important (for this reason) to keep my cane skills honed.

The second observation I have about this story is that we're all susceptible to moments of inattention and, therefore, risk of injury or worse. One possible response is that we should, therefore, be hyper vigilant at all times, for if we have a momentary laps of attention, and if we are hurt or die as a result, it's somehow our fault. The other response (and this is my preferred choice) is that all people live their lives with a degree of risk, and as human beings, we're all subject to momentary lapses of attention or perfection. As a result, we live and at all times during which we live, we're subject to the chance that a calamity will occur. In this case, eye sight would have possibly saved us from ourselves, but I submit that as many sighted people walk around half of the time drinking a cup of coffee or soda, replaying the fight they had with their spouse in their head or just thinking about the shopping, the kids' homework assignment, the damned car payment or just about nothing at all, thus, they're just as susceptible to the same risks as are we. So for me, the bottom line can be summed up by the old saying, "You pays your money, and you takes your chances."

My third observation is that it is a small number of dog guide handlers (and maybe none at all) who go around having conversations (mental or otherwise) with their dog guides. It's certainly true that if my dog guide runs me under a low-hanging branch, I'll give him a verbal correction, and (depending on the branch), I might even throw in some salty sailor's talk for good measure, but I find this sort of mental dialogue from the dog guide handler to her dog rather silly and possibly insulting. Is this perhaps the answer to my earlier question about the author having a preference for or against dog guides? Is he trying to make the dog guide handler look silly even as he makes the cane traveler almost dead because of his inattention?

Ron Brooks Phoenix, AZ ACB-L listserv

...FROM ME: I do wish to say one important thing here, and that is in writing this "Pay Attention" TP I did not intend to say that one method of travel is better than another. Travel tools and/or philosophy is a personal choice and they, the cane and the dog are both proven methods.

**5. Ron:

I don't have a problem with the handler talking to his dog guide, however there would be a serious problem if the dog guid talked back. But that's for another post.

Dave McElroy ACB-L listserv

**6. Dave,
Many moons ago I worked for a drapery factory in downtown Seattle. We had two floors of a five story loft building. To operate the elevators you had to reach inside the wooden slats of the gate and flip a lever. The elevator would stop and then you'd lift the gate and flip the lever the other way, pull on the cable and away you would go. But folks would get in a hurry, or become careless. They would lift the gate without flipping the lever to stop the elevator. This meant that you stepped onto the elevator as it was still traveling. Risky, but we all did it, until the woman caught her coat sleeve on the lever as she stepped off the moving elevator. It pulled her back and under the rising floor. Then her coat let go and she dropped four floors into the bottom on the shaft. And she lived. But I heard her screams as she passed the second floor.

My worst scare was on the elevator in the library at the University of Washington. I stepped into the elevator on the fourth floor and pressed the button for the main lobby. I was alone. The elevator suddenly dropped like a rock. Alarm bells started clanging. The elevator actually bounced when it reached the bottom and the door flew open. I leapt out, cracking my shins on the edge of the floor. The elevator was about a foot below the floor. Because I was blind I did not realize that we were in the lower basement.
After my heart slowed down I took the stairs up to the main floor.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L Listserv

**7. Thanks for posting this. It does make me think, and wonder how my young guide dog would do in a situation like that. Hopefully she'd have the presence of mind that Polo did.

Olivia NORMAN ACB NABS mailing list

**8. This story reminds me of something that happened to me a long time ago and certainly made me a die-hard cane user.

Mr. LeGaard and I were working on orientation to one of my school buildings as I was getting ready to start my first year at UNL. We were in the Oldfather building; I still remember it. He had me go up a set of stairs in order to check out the next floor.

I went to the top of the stairs and my cane hit thin air! There was no landing! Mr. LeGaard was probably about to scream, but he didn't. I came back down. Obviously, they were doing some renovation in the building and hadn't put a rope or sign or anything there for my cane to hit.

So now you understand how I quickly got over feeling embarrassed about carrying and using a cane!

Lauren Washington State

**9. On the surface this story appears to make a strong case for dog guides verses the travel cane. Polo is trained to over ride the "Hup Hup" command when it is not safe to proceed. What would have happened if Mark had stepped onto the elevator first? What would his cane tell him? And would it be in time to prevent him from tumbling down the elevator shaft?
In fact, this tale is about how we, as blind people, process information.

Mark and Miranda heard the elevator doors open and assumed the elevator was there ready to receive them. It always is...most of the time. But things are not always as they seem to be. Polo stopped, but notice, Miranda took a step past her balky guide and her foot came into contact with empty space.

I recall two friends who had similar experiences. Neither of them were so lucky. One woman stepped past her dog and dropped a full 15 feet into a parking lot, pulling her dog down on top of herself. She was fortunate only to have suffered broken bones. Her dog was even luckier, landing on a soft body.
My other friend liked to drink. So he got himself a Guide Dog to make sure he would make it home from the bar. When his dog refused to cross the street after being ordered to do so, my friend charged past, slamming into the side of a moving car. He was only bruised.
But the cane can be ignored just as easily as a dog guide. I recall stepping down from a curb, preparing to cross a street. My cane found the street level and I failed to note that it did not tap the street out in front of me. I realized, too late, that I had stepped off onto a long flight of stairs. How I reached the bottom still in an upright position is more than I'll ever know.

What Mark and Miranda remind us is that we must always be alert when we travel. It is so easy to become complacent and make assumptions about our surroundings. That is always when we get into trouble.
The dog or the cane are travel aids. They are not "taking care" of us. We are the responsible parties.

Carl Jarvis ACB-L listserv

**10. This and stories like the one you tell, Carl, remind me that elevators can, in fact, fail. I have to say that I've never had that experience but living in the New York area, as I used to, (where there are a lot of elevators, you'd hear about one of these things on occasion.

But, I think when I got my first dog back in the 70's, one of the items on the contract was a statement that you wouldn't use the dog while drunk. So your friend would not have been well though of at that school back then.

Dave McElroy ACB-L listserv

**11. I am always astonished at the number of ways people choose to work their dog guides. In this thought provoker, I see two friends, each with a different mode of travel, one with more skill and confidence than the other. I use a guide dog and I'm not comfortable using her on an escalator. It's also not my practice any more, to stick my foot out past the edge of the curb or any threshold when traveling. Had I done so at that elevator, I think my heart would have been in my throat! I was puzzled at Mark's dependence on the dog to get the two safely where they needed to go. Both parties need to stay focused especially when crossing the street. No traveler is perfect, no dog is perfect and I don't expect that. I too have done things in traveling with a dog that I regretted. My next move after an incident like the one at the elevator would have been a call to Security to ask why there was, apparently no way for anyone to know that the elevator was not working!!!
This is an incident which, in my mind, calls for swift action and solid education. It's not just blind people who step inside elevator doors without thinking...are the inner doors always black??? There are numerous solutions to the problem, not the least of which is to lock that elevator so it wouldn't open! Put a sign close enough to elevator buttons so a sighted person could see it and a blind person who was, "paying attention" could feel it and at least get a clue that something was amiss. Life or lives could have been lost! A day like that would have made me even more eager to use the stairs, which is my preference anyway!

Jo, Aggie and Salaam

**12. I enjoyed this one!

It recalled to my mind a movie I had seen decades ago, I guess, about the first guide dog. The man was saved from stepping into an empty elevator shaft
by his dog, but had been angry before because the dog wouldn't get in. Afterwards, of course, he was suitably grateful after a sighted woman told him
what his dog had done. But that was back when I was young and sighted, so it made only a passing impression on me.

Later, in the 80's sometime, I saw an episode of L.A. Law where one of the female characters was having an argument outside an elevator and stomped off
into an empty elevator shaft to her death. OK, still sighted, an impression, but nothing to worry about, after all, I could see if there was an elevator
car there, right?

OK, once my sight really started fading from Glaucoma, I recalled both of those cinematic episodes and decided then and there that it was time to start
tapping forward with my cane to make sure there really was an elevator there when the doors opened! *GRIN* It just seemed prudent, and I nearly always
recall to do this, as it's just a habit now. You never know when a corporation or university will decide that elevator maintenance isn't all that important!

Who says TV is bad for you! *GRIN* It might just save my life

Daryl Swinson

**13. I was only saying to my friend the other day how often I just switch off when I'm walking with my guide dog Wilma. I think this is a reminder to us all just to slow down a bit and take more time and care.

Alison Jayne Connor REHABILITATION SPECIALIST Visual Impairment Team Carlisle Adult social care

**14. The elevator is one that many years ago in Portland, OAREGON AT the HILTON HOTEL A GUY FELL 20 FLOOR BECAUSE THE Elevator door open without an elevator there. From that day on I always check before boarding an elevator that it is there. Now I would tap my cane several time to verify that elevator is there. Second I would check to verify that elevator either tactual marking or Braille marking. I know that a lot of elevator do not have proper marking for blind people. Another reason to check just because you heard people talking that do not mean that they are on elevators. So taps first and save a life.


**15. This was a good one. I, unfortunately, have been guilty of not always paying enough attention in the kind of situation you just described. I am a dedicated
cane user and will be until I die. But I have many friends who do very well with dog guides, and have sometimes gone out with them and have let my attention
lapse a little because I want to keep up with them. Fortunately, this has never resulted in a disaster, and, while crossing streets, I have always paid
attention to traffic patterns even while traveling with dog guide using friends. But in the case of the elevator, well, I have often assumed that when
the door opens, there will be a car there to step into. I would be interested in speculating what Mark would have done were he not traveling with his
friend Miranda and her dog Polo. Would he have been paying more attention and saved himself from a potentially deadly fall? I get the sense that Polo
saved the day here by his alert response to the situation, however, it also served as a wake up call to me. I don't think this is saying that using a
dog guide is always more effective, just that we all need to pay attention, cane and dog users. In this kind of situation, everyone needs to be paying
attention. If Mark had been paying more attention and had been ahead of Miranda, he might have noticed the empty elevator shaft first with his cane and
pointed it out to Miranda as she and Polo approached. So, both tools can be quite effective as long as the person using them is also alert and responsive
to this kind of situation.

Mark Tardif Cleveland Ohio

**16. As a dog handler, smile, I had to smile at this TP this time. I have come to the conclusion, that the cane and the dog are beneficial to people, and each has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on weather of course what the person wants to do to travel.

Each is "superior" in the eyes of the person who chooses that mode of travel. I have chosen a dog because they are intelligent, they do avoid obstacles in the environment, as I don't want to know about each lamp post, each tree, tree branch, construction cone and step and path to the right or left. At the same token these are considered "land marks" to a cane traveler. Dogs can also "spot" landmarks off in the distance long before a cane would be able to find them for example in a restaurant finding the door to go outside, or inside, or to refined a seat across a crowded room. He can also find particular locations if I have taught them to him.

I got a dog because of his judgment at crossings, his ability to see cars that I can't hear or who are being masked by other sounds in the environment such as construction, trees and bushes being trimmed and the like.

I will say I haven't experienced the TP, myself, but I do remember my O and M instructor imploring me to always check with my cane no matter how many times I have used or been in a situation that I am really familiar with.

Morris Frank wrote in his book First Lady of the Seeing Eye about an incident very similar to this one where his dog refused to enter an empty elevator shaft.

I also remember a newspaper article a few months back that made quite a splash about a guy who stepped off a train and right onto the tracks below while the dog stood on the train and looked on.

And the old adage from guide dog school applies "Follow your dog", "listen to your dog," "find out what your dog is telling you" smile, and that my friends is the moral.

Always check or "look" before you leap so to speak. I keep telling my students that their cane is an extension of their index finger, it gives them more length to explore and see what they can see and what they can do.

Good TP.

Oh, I also use the sound cues and the environmental cues in the environment to help my dog make decisions on where to turn and when. Is the Team work of a great guide dog team that truly makes it fantastic.

Shelley L. Rhodes B.S. Ed, CTVI
and Judson, guiding golden

**17. Oh "Robert! How scary! I have never had this happen & pray I never do.
Since my walking is mostly rural & not much traffic in buildings I should be fine.

I will add that my Melita is showing signs of wanting to quit! She is not yet quite 6 years old but I suspect the many dog harassments are the cause.
Before Melita & I would take many side jaunts & still get home long before Dorothy & our elderly neighbor lady. Now they pass me & get home before me.
I have had to greatly slow my pace. This is coming too soon as I had wanted another 2 if not more years with her guiding. The bond is still very tight but she just shows she has no heart for walking. I grow so angry for neighbors with aggressive dogs plus the lady who owned the dog that did attack us still allow their dogs to roam freely & nothing is being done.
Anyway, it feels like I am going blind all over again & this time I feel it could have been avoided!

Ernie Jones Walla Walla Washington USA

**18. Several things stand out.
First of all, Mark is hard to gauge. Either he is inexperienced, or he's overconfident. I would assume that a mobility trainer would warn you to always
be cautious when entering an elevator, in case just such a thing does happen.

Secondly, talk about "pay attention"! What about the building maintenance workers??? I have worked in buildings with elevators that were out of order.
There is NO WAY the door should be opening to an empty shaft!
But most important was the warning of the sighted bystanders. Consider this.

I once had an online debate with a very angry blind man, who posed this scenario. He said to me, "If I were walking along, and I was about to walk into
a wall or an open manhole, what would you do?"
My answer was, "I would yell, 'STOP!'"
The man responded, quite angrily, "Look, man! If I'm walking around alone, with a cane, that means I know what I'm doing! The CANE tells me there's a
hazard ahead! I DON'T NEED YOUR 'HELP'!"
Well, this elevator incident proves that a bystander must not dare presume so! Even the most experienced cane user could make a mistake, just like Mark
almost had. Miranda's guide dog was there for her, but the dog only works for one person at a time.
Now that I think about it, this is just as good a thought provoker for the blind as it is for the sighted; perhaps more so. Conscience and common human
decency would COMPEL a sighted person to yell out a warning to a blind person, if he thinks there is a serious danger ahead. Therefore, blind people should
NOT take this as an insult, nor as an infringement on their "independence."
Therefore, if you ever hear someone yell, "LOOK OUT!" just remember this elevator incident...which is a true story! True, your cane USUALLY works; and
maybe 99 out of 100 times, the hazard is either not as serious as it seems, or it is totally avoidable altogether. But what about that hundredth time?
The hazard may well be something you WILL hit, or CAN'T handle! Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall! So if someone yells,
"LOOK OUT!", you should say, "Thank you," and count your blessings!

David Lafleche

**19. I don't have a dog, and, even though I'm completely blind, I regularly walk around without my cane when I'm familiar with wherever I happen to be. I'm sure this is common, for example, for most blind people while in their own homes.
It's also true for me at work.

One day, about 16 years ago when my work area was on the sixth floor, I was waiting alone for the elevator so that I could go down to the cafeteria for some lunch. It eventually came, the doors opened, and I reached my right foot forward to step inside. When it was about half way in I suddenly felt something hard begin to press down firmly on the top of my toes. As they helplessly moved in response to the unexpected pressure from above, I also felt nothing at all beneath them where the floor should've been.

The good news is that this account doesn't have a bad ending. I fortunately still had sufficient balance on my other foot, and, therefore, was able to yank the one which was under mechanical attack back with what we might call "blinding speed", which was in time. What had clearly happened was that the doors had opened before the elevator had finished aligning itself with the floor. Me being me, of course, I estimated the time it would take for the alignment operation to complete, and then carefully stepped back inside and seamlessly continued my quest for food. To this day, however, I'm still just a little more cautious whenever an elevator crosses my path.

And then there was my encounter with an open manhole. It was in the middle of a large, porch-like area in front of the building at university wherein most of my courses were, so, again, I was rather familiar with the territory. And, anyway, who'd ever expect a manhole to be hiding in the middle of a porch! The open hole was surrounded by those orange cones, which was all that was necessary to alert sighted people to its presence. There was enough room between those cones, however, so that I, entirely oblivious to the impending danger, walked right between two of them. The first clue I had was that there was no porch where ones foot would normally expect to find it.

So what should one do in this circumstance? After deducing what the cause of the missing ground must be, the physicist in me went immediately to work. I knew that ones normal reaction, i.e. to try to jump back, wouldn't work because there was no longer sufficient friction between my other foot and the ground so all that'd actually happen would be that I'd end up pulling my other foot over the hole too. I knew from experience that those holes are never more than three or four feet across, which is less than I am tall. The "plan on the spot", therefore, was to leave the foot which was still on solid ground right where it was, to keep that leg and my body completely straight, to hold my hands forward in order to catch my cross-hole landing, and to wait for the impact.

Since it'd take a little over a half a second for an object, in this case my hands closely followed by my head, to fall the just under six feet of my height, I knew I had a bit of extra time to experiment with another possibility. Leaving one of my hands in correct landing position, I made a wide circle with the other one in search of something I just might be able to grab onto. There was ... a ladder which had been placed in the hole and which was sticking way up out of it. That made things much easier, so I took firm hold of it and leapt to the far side of the hole.

This story has a bit of a funny ending. I don't get perturbed too easily, so, as soon as I had both feet safely on solid ground, I turned around, stared at the hole, and broke out laughing because it seemed like what had just happened to me was the kind of stuff that great cartoons are made of. Someone else who had been watching, however, took it much more seriously. He called the university's Department of Open Manholes (or whatever it's called) and reported the incident. The next time I passed by that hole it was impenetrably guarded by four levels of solid wooden barricades. Talk about overkill! I wonder how hard it was for the workers themselves to get to their job site.

Enough of the everyday perils in the life of a blind person for now. More, perhaps, later.

Dave Mielke Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

**20. What I noticed in the crafting of the tale, the author took pains to not paint one mode of travel over another. He first shows Mark kidding with his friend about her new dog and you can tell by what he is kidding about, that he knows what the dog should be watching for. Then, when the light changed, though Miranda jumps out first with her dog, in no way really telling us that the dog is superior, but maybe that Mark is still in his kidding mode and possibly not paying attention to the light, but when we see them jointing crossing the street, he tells us that he had heard the changing light pattern. So in crossing streets, they are both skilled travelers.

Then, getting into the department store, we see mark pointing out the sound cue of the revolving doors. And we see Miranda and Polo quickly entering the building as a well coordinated travel team. Then we see the art of the cane user finding the leading edge of a moving door section which aids him in judging his entrance to the building and so he catches up with his friend. Then of course, the two of them use an escalator to go up.

And finally, we see that they both are experienced elevator users by means of it was there and they decided to take it to get the quickest to their outdoor destination.

And finally, we see the two of them at the unknown danger point and I note that neither of them fell in. Yes, Miranda checked with her foot, not knowing there was a problem, and I have seen other dog users trained to do something similar. And we should note, she wasn’t dragging the dog or pulling him into the open shaft, either. Then for Mark, his thoughts, his talking to himself to touch on the reality of the situation, he examines what he believes is true, that there are times that he may forge into the elevator with not much thought and he’s telling us that in the future, he better pay attention, because there may be a rude surprise awaiting him and there is only the one chance to check before you leap.

I also liked how the two friends could kid and banter with one another about their respective travel choices.

Andy polar New Holland

**21. Wow! Makes you think! Both of these blind people, each with a different mode of mobility, seem to move about recklessly, i.e., chatting constantly in hazardous situations like crossing the street. Nothing wrong with that if you are capable of performing multiple tasks simultaneously. I personally cannot walk and chew gum at the same time, and as a rule, I do not converse while using my cane and maneuvering streets and airports with escalators, etc, unless my partner in conversation is a sighted person.
This is a great one, Robert, and we should all take heed.

Jim Theall Longmont, Colorado

**22. This is really a great reminder, to all of us, to pay attention to what our dogs or canes are telling us. Yes, I do mean canes, too. I have been a cane user for more than 40 years and consider myself a good cane traveler.
But, especially when I'm in a familiar area, I can get sloppy and not use my cane as well as I should. That could be dangerous, as we learned from this situation. There's a reason why we learned good cane skills and why we should keep them sharp and pay attention to what we're doing. Miranda didn't step out, because her dog wouldn't go and she checked with her foot.
But, Mark might have, if no one had said anything and if he had stepped onto the elevator without checking, first. No, it doesn't happen very often that the door opens and there's nothing there. But, it only takes one time for a disaster to happen.

Cindy Handel Willow Street, PA

**23. Now that is a frightening thought!
I've never had a problem with elevators, but yes, this sort of thing does happen now and again. I'm glad the dog was aware! But if you're cane traveling,
it's best to check out the floor of the elevator. You're right. I've never thought about this before.

Lori Stayer Merick, New York

**24. Quite a number of years ago (back in the 1960's), a couple of blind women in the YWCA in Cleveland stepped into an elevator shaft around the eighth floor,
with the predictable result. More recently, a woman who was a friend of Rami Rabby went into an elevator shaft in New York. For many years, I never entered
an elevator without checking it with my cane.

James S. Nyman Lincoln, Nebraska USA

**25. Wow, I guess I'm going to double-check the floor on every elevator trip from now on. What a life-changing event. If it had happened to me and I was the
cane user, I'd be deeply affected. It would be hard not to be.

Ann Chiappetta, M.S. Family Therapist

**26. Polo? The guide dog's name is Polo? as in Marco Polo? Is that wry, twisted humor or not? ... and as to what I think; *shrug* Yet another case in favor of having something that loves you between you and the world.

Mark BurningHawk

**27. This got me thinking about more than cane/dog travel, elevators, and related details.
I've always been a cane user, but I often think we go on automatic, just as our sighted friends do in a familiar transit route or similar daily routines.
I wonder if dog users, often described as less routine travelers, also go on "automatic" when going about a familiar routine.
I recall a wonderful article about orientation and cane travel that Peggy Elliot wrote several years ago. It seemed the most valuable message in it was about being mindful when traveling, planning, remembering and reconstructing.
While we might all be tempted to go through routines while chatting, planning a grocery list, considering a career move - anything that would take our minds from our walk, maybe this is a luxury we can't well afford.
The interesting parallel in this story is how the two sighted observers saw the situation differently. We've probably all read about optical illusions, and how the sight of something can be altered by expectations. I think it's very similar to the situation a blind traveler might encounter: i.e., we might believe that a well-traveled route exhibits certain characteristics, when in fact, our minds have generated the illusion. For instance, does it seem at times that we might long perceive the existence of a well-known landmark after its removal?

People have said to me in the past decade or so that the world is becoming more and more visual in its presentation. If so, mindfulness about our travel circumstances might be more crucial than ever before.

kat Guam

**28. A good Thought Provoker, and one that we should learn from. Mark is right.
So often, we step without first checking out where we are going to put our foot. Whether we check with our cane or pay attention to our dogs, this Provoker is quite appropriate.

I've heard numerous stories where a dog refused to move at a command, and for good reason. In one instance, while a blind person was crossing a street, her dog guide suddenly stopped and swerved sharply around something that wasn't there. Yes, an open man hole with no warning nor protective gate. As my instructor often said, when I was in training for my dogs, "Follow your dog and pay attention to what he is trying to tell you!"
Miranda's behavior of taking a step, when her dog refused to move, happens too often. How many of us tell our dogs "forward", then immediately take a step, instead of waiting for the dog to move first? How many times do we take a step after our dogs stop? Once, I was walking down the sidewalk with my dog and he stopped short. Unfortunately, I took one more step, landing in fresh cement up to my ankle. I'm sure that we all have similar stories, whether we have a dog guide or cane.

Doug Hall Daytona Beach, Florida

**29. All these answers are very intelligent, and I especially agree with Davey, even though I'm a guide dog user. I didn't become a guide user until in my mid-twenties for much the same reasons as Davey has. There are advantages and disadvantages, conveniences and inconveniences to each. In some situations guide dogs are more efficient, although not necessarily better.
There are other situations where cane use outweighs the advantages of dog use. A guide dog can literally whisk you easily and safely through a crowded room with total clearance, not even brushing a person or object. On the other hand, when our girls were potty training, it was much easier to slip out of the church service using a cane, rather than waking up fido, having her stretch and shake, etc. Guide dogs can behave very unobtrusively, but you have to take those few seconds to allow Dog to” get it" then respond.

I chose guide dog use for a number of reasons. First, even though mobile and fully independent with a cane, I was curious. Second, My husband-to-be was a dog user, so it's not surprising he had some influence there. Third, I had a summer of changes coming up, leaving the school district where I was teaching to move to another state to get married; why not add a new dog to the equation. It worked; that was 26 years and four dogs ago.

I have a lot of fun using my guide dog, and it's enjoyable working with a live partner. You don't, of course, have that dynamic using a cane, but, yes, it is less hassle.

Like kids, it's wonderful having them, they are an inconvenience to your schedule, your life-style, but when you love them, you never really seriously look at those inconveniences.

Judy Jones

**30. I enjoyed reading the 27 responses to TP110.

I am now a guide dog user, but have also traveled with a cane quite extensively. Though for me, the guide dog is my preference, I can see advantages and disadvantages to both.

I too had an experience with an open manhole in the middle of an eight lane highway in Detroit when I was training with my first Leader dog. As we crossed, I felt her veer to the left and followed her. When I got across the very busy street, the trainer informed me that my dog had just taken me around an open manhole. I was not even aware it was there, other than our slight deviation in direction.

On the other hand, my present guide dog thinks that it's good to pick out the most direct route between two points. Sometimes, if I don't pay close attention to traffic sounds, she gets the idea that we should just go ahead and cross both streets at the same time. This difficulty is something I could avoid totally were I a cane user. I just have to pay close attention to our direction of travel when crossing the street.

Also, I would much rather have a well-meaning sighted person yell at me to stop if he/she saw an impending danger somehow I was missing than to just walk into an open elevator shaft.

Sherri from Orlando

**31. This TP started off by completely irritating me. How dare somebody talk to my dog while they are working, let alone at a busy intersection, let alone someone who claims to be my friend. They should bloody well know better. Talk to me, not to my dog. How would anyone else know whether my dog is paying attention or not? I am holding on to the harness and can feel what they are doing. I am the one who has gone through training to be able to read my dogs signals... And the fact that this is a new team makes it even worse... I mean it is hard work being a new team, you are still ironing out the bugs and you don't need anyone to sow the seed of doubt that your dog isn't paying attention. And don't even get me started about the whole 'doggy brain' thing. I reckon that my dog's brain is far more attentive and alert than at least half of the population...

What about this guy Mark. He should be making his own crossing decisions. If he wants to rely on a dog, get one of his own. My dog is trained to guide one person, me. If I take someone "sightless guide" with me, I do so with the person knowing that I will not correct my dog for making errors in judging their width. I make them carry their cane on their right hand side for this purpose and usually cross streets individually or in consultation with them. If they choose to cross the street at the same time as me and we get creamed as the story puts it, well so be it. They made their own decision and I made mine.

The next paragraph was completely demeaning... I mean don't be bad??
Who would say that? And as for Polo sharing his doggy biscuits... get a life. Guide dogs as a rule get fed once or twice a day and they don't get snacks and like the dog is going to share their biscuits, especially a Labrador... come on? And as for this imbecile telling the dog how to do its job, of course it is going to watch the cars and not the lights.... grrrr ... grrrrr.
Finally, Miranda telling this idiot to shut up. I wouldn't have put up with it that long. I have educated all my friends politely about the role of my dog and how they should behave when we are out working...

This middle section was quite well written, cutting out all that nonsense that was the first part of the story. I think you could have started with the entrance to the department store and your story would have lost nothing but gained a lot.

Now at the end I don't mind that Mark is praising Polo but Miranda isn't. I would be down on the floor hugging and patting my dog to death and telling them what a good, clever, beautiful, wonderful, magical animal they are.
In some ways I am sad that the story didn't finish with Mark filling in an application to get a dog but I am actually really glad that it didn't too because it could have easily been written with two cane users walking with each other, and one having used their cane to scan the entrance of the lift before getting in. Or alternatively Miranda could have walked forward without her dog, pulling it behind her to their deaths... I mean there are quite a few times when I have stopped my dog from guiding by going to high up on her shoulder which meant that I was leading her more than she was guiding me. Or times when I have kept walking after she has stopped, luckily this has mostly been down quiet curbs rather than in any dangerous situation but still being a dog handler doesn't mean you necessarily pay any more attention than if you use a cane.
Next time, cut out all the nonsense and get straight to the point. it makes for a much better read.

From Penny and Vallie
Melbourne, Australia

**32. I am a deafblind guide dog handler. I too think that both guide dogs and long canes BOTH have there methods and depend a great deal on what kind of life
style you choose to lead, and whether you like dogs and are to prepared to commit yourself to your dogs needs. I talk to my dog. I don't see anything wrong
with that. I think my dog Jilli is very intelligent and Peaceful. She has a much better personality then many humans I know.
I also use a long cane regularly in places where Jilli can run freely. However I would find some situations a lot harder with a cane then with a dog.
For example my dog sometimes seems to know when to get off the bus. I also don't have to be on spot A to get to spot B as I would with a long cane. When
I used to use a cane, if the bus stopped at a different place then usual, even if it was only slightly out that was a big problem with a cane, particularly
in poor lighting. (When the lighting is good I have quite a bit of useful sight.) With a dog it wouldn't make that much difference. In fact the other
day I got off a totally unfamiliar stop. Having no central bus station in Birmingham, England there are several and I got off at the wrong one. However
Jilli knew where we were. I told her to find Birmingham new street. I gave her a mental image of where we usually wait in Birmingham newstreet and she
took me to the right place.

Helene Riles

(I know this probably belongs to another thought provoker but I'm curious to know if anyone else communicates telepathically with their dog? If Robert Leslie
Newman would like me to go into more detail I can do)

**33. I started learning how to use a cane when I was eight years old; I'm thirty-seven now. Out of these many years of traveling with some kind of device,
I only used a guide-dog for three years, from 1998 to 2001. When I graduated from high school in 1989, I started contemplating on getting a guide-dog.
So much warm, fuzzy literature had been written about guide-dog use, that I thought it would be wonderful to have such a wonderful companion to talk to
when we're sitting at a bus stop alone. However, I had become used to traveling with a cane, so I couldn't fathom how I would be able to travel freely
without feeling like I had to be totally dependent on someone else--the dog--to lead me around. Sure, I still would have been responsible for making judgment
calls here and there, but I still would have to put trust in my dog for us to be able to work as a team.
In 1998, I finally decided to get a guide-dog. Of course, I had to get used to not having a cane in front of me to be able to detect objects before
it was right in front of my belly. I also had to attain my balancing act between depending on my dog entirely vs. making all the judgment calls so as
not for one to outweigh the other. To make a long story short, though, the whole three-year ordeal did not work out. Despite all the work I did with
him at the advice of the school, my dog seemed to only want to do what he wanted to do instead of what he was supposed to do. Unless he was given food
as a reward for doing the right thing, then he did not seem to want to be bothered with doing the right thing. I ended up being the one to make all the
judgment calls; no shared teamwork at all.
In thinking back on all that I went through with using a guide-dog, some of my problems were due to the dog. But I also think that some of my other
problems stem from my bias of cane-travel being easier than guide-dog travel and the issues and concerns I addressed in the above paragraphs. Yes, it
was nice to have someone to talk to when you are sitting alone at a bus stop, but it was not worth all the problems I had.

Linda Minnesota