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Guide Dogs VS White Canes: My Story Of Pros And Cons Of The Various Independence Styles

Lets Grow Our Independence

If you've been visually impaired your whole life or are recently adjusting to visual impairment, you're probably pondering your options for living independently. Well, you're not alone, and I genuinely hope you find the best solution for yourself. In this article, we'll explore the two primary tools at your disposal: the white (but colorful) cane and the furry companion known as the guide dog. I'll share my own experiences, pros and cons, and why ultimately, the decision is yours to make. If you decide on a guide dog, I'll also provide a list of organizations to consider. If the cane suits you better, I'll share my preferred cane provider. I don't benefit from endorsing any specific organization or provider; I simply want to offer you as much information as possible. So, shall we dive in to the impact that guide dogs and white canes have on our independence?


White Canes


First things first, can we stop calling it a "white" cane? They come in various colors, like my sleek all-black one, which suits my personality perfectly. However, if you prefer the traditional white cane, that's perfectly fine. The key is being skilled in its use, as it enables you to feel every change in elevation, detect different materials underfoot, and navigate around obstacles. Some of us thrive on this tactile feedback and appreciate having a complete sensory experience of our surroundings.


Pros

1. Total Control - With a cane, you have complete control over your environment. You'll know everything about your surroundings, from what's nearby to how much space you have.

2. Freedom - If you're not a dog person or simply prefer solitude, a cane offers the freedom of independence without relying on a living companion.

3. Travel Convenience - Traveling with a cane means less to pack compared to a guide dog, making your journeys more manageable.

4. No Potty Breaks - Your cane won't need bathroom breaks, so you can plan your life without worrying about its needs.

5. Confidence - Using a cane can boost your confidence, as it provides valuable feedback about your surroundings.


Cons

1. Fast Pacing - If you tend to walk briskly, you might need a faster cane sweep, a longer cane, and face a higher risk of bending your cane.

2. Impact Feedback - Feeling bumps and cracks through your cane can be uncomfortable. Some people find this the most significant drawback, but you can adapt your technique to minimize this.


Guide Dogs


Before we dive into the pros and cons of having a guide dog, let's clarify that "Seeing Eye Dog" is a trademark that exclusively applies to dogs from The Seeing Eye in New Jersey. All other dogs performing guide work fall under the broader category of guide dogs.


Pros

1. Freedom from Fatigue - A guide dog can relieve you from the physical and mental exhaustion of navigating with a cane.

2. Increased Speed - Guide dogs can enhance your mobility by helping you avoid unexpected obstacles like posts or railings.

Cons

1. Access Denial - Unfortunately, some individuals may deny you access to public places with your guide dog. While this is often illegal, it can be embarrassing and degrading.

2. Packing Challenge - Your guide dog takes up space in your bag, and you must carry essentials for both you and your furry friend, including food.

Lets clarify for a minute. Your dog does not take up space in your bag, that would be a pretty useless guide dog; rather, your dogs essentials take up space in your bag!


The Pro & Con Combo: Cuddles


One thing that's both a pro and a con is the dog's love for cuddles. Regardless of whether you're on the couch or in bed with your partner, your guide dog will demand its fair share of affection. So this may mean that sometimes, one of you may need to shove over a tad to allow for the snuggles of that loveable lab, that silly shepherd, or that poofy poodle.


So, What Should You Do?


The decision between a guide dog and a cane is deeply personal. It's a significant step that requires discussions with your family, partner, and friends. Extensive research is crucial. Don't rush; it may take days or even years to decide. Remember, you should never feel pressured into making a choice. And if you do choose a guide dog and later find it's not the right fit, it's okay to admit that it's not for you. It's a unique journey that only you can navigate.


Why Did I Choose The Guide Dog Life?

So, now that you have read this far, I want to thank you! I also bet you are going to still be wondering what the resoning behind my choice of a guide dog was, aren’t you? Truthfully, my reasoning was complicated, because I didn’t truly realize the positive impact until after I trained with my first guide. The primary reason I decided a dog was right for me was I was tired of missing things with my cane, was tired of using my remaining vision to aid in navigating my world, and tired of getting those lovely jabs to the gut from the cane. Following training, I realized how tired I was of being tired. I never realized how exhausting it was receiving all the tactile feedback, havin to use my vision, and the fear of injuring myself really was. This was actually emphasised even more when I trained with my second guide just this last January. After almost 4 years without a guide, I never realized how restricted, tired, and focused I was on not injuring myself. Though I am confident with my skills and abilities of navigating my world with a cane, I am not confident that I will miss every obstacle, that I won’t get punched in the gut by the cane thanks to a crack, or that I wouldn’t bend a cane while navigating my world. I actually stopped using a cane for the most part during this time, because I found my life easier to just get out without it, than it was to travel using the cane. Please don’t get me wrong, I always had my cane on me, just didn’t use it unless I had to. So, I have to thank my angel dog Indy, because he showed me how easy it is to flow through my world, and gave me the ability to reduce my level of exhaustion. I miss you little man. And my current little man (who shall remain nameless to the blog), thanks for giving me my freedom back. I know I never lost it; however, it is just so much easier.


Now About Those Resources

I am still working on consolidating the programs into a list with their contact information. Once I complete this, I will be sure to update this post, and add a resource link to the top menu nav.



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