Open Letter from a Guide Dog Team at BC

Susan Gjolmesli and Cajun

DRC Director Susan Gjolmesli was published today in BC’s The Watchdog with an article on understanding guide dog teams and proper etiquette.  You can read the article at The Watchdog, or read the transcript below!

Open letter from a guide dog team at Bellevue College

On behalf of the DRC Team and my Seeing Eye dog, I would like to welcome everyone back to BC for the 2014-2015 academic year! My name is Susan Gjolmesli and I direct the Disability Resource Center (DRC) for this amazing college. I am someone who is blind and who uses a Seeing Eye dog – a large, gorgeous Golden Retriever to guide me safely and expertly to and from destinations on campus each day. He is my fourth Seeing Eye dog or dog guide. Seeing Eye is a trademark name – a brand since he is from the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ…the very first school for such service animals – and it is over 90 years old, founded and named for Morris Frank.

It is important for me that you, as a supportive campus community know how I appreciate your support. When you open doors and say, “I have the door open,” that is a big help to us. My dog is young and we are still learning to be an effective team. When a dog guide is in harness, he is working. That is the work ethic, and the dog is never to be distracted in harness. That will sabotage the dog’s training, eventually, if it persists.

I thought I might list a few of the etiquettes here that my trainers and the Seeing Eye educate sighted people about regarding guidelines we must promote to keep our dogs well-trained where the public is concerned: When a dog is in harness he is working. Do not pet a dog in harness. Do not feed a dog in harness – only the person/partner of the dog feeds the dog guide. Do not call, whistle or otherwise distract the dog guide. If the dog is sitting and you wish to interact in some way, first ask the blind person for permission. Be understanding if a request is denied – it will always be for a good reason.

We put our lives in the hands of our precious, beautiful dogs. If someone distracts my dog at the top of a staircase it is like someone who is driving a car has had the steering wheel jerked by someone and loses control – it could be disastrous.

My dogs are all greatly loved – they are not in harness in my office nor at home. They play, have toys, run and frolic – they are just dogs at home! But, they are service dogs who love to work and be with me – keeping me safe and allowing me to be as independent as I can be. Please help us by following the dog guide etiquettes I’ve mentioned. And just one other thing. I know we are sometimes in a big hurry! But before you burst through doors on campus – stop and think…there could be a dog, or a child behind the door you can’t see… it’s pretty painful for all concerned to hit someone with a heavy door.

Have an amazing year! AND be on the lookout for our Disability Pride events on October 30! As well search out the Disability Postcard Project posters on campus and submit yours soon!

Last Updated May 26, 2015