Nickie Coby (puppybraille) wrote,
Nickie Coby

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Bad Guide Dog handlers

You might get the idea that I'm working on the issue of shame as part of my DBT. If you have that idea, you'd be right. Shame is a nasty issue. It's not the same as guilt. Guilt says "I did something bad". Shame says "I am bad". It's also the fear of rejection. Guilt is more about doing something that goes against your moral values. Shame might be good because it helps us function in society and helps us to stay safe in society (that's not the best way of explaining it, but I'm still working on it).

Anyway, as I've been reading more of Brene Brown's work surrounding shame, I realized that shame is extremely problematic in the blindness community and the Guide Dog using community in particular. Or is it just me?

Here's a scenario: I'm walking through church. There's a table of food. Julio snags a cracker with cheese. Everyone thinks it's cute, but I'm mortified. My first thought is that I'm a terrible handler.

Here's another one: Two Guide Dog handlers walk into a building (no, this isn't the start of a joke). They encounter each other and both dogs get excited. The question comes up of whose dog got distracted first?

Now I'm not saying that it's okay and acceptable to allow our dogs to run the world and behave badly. Or not take responsibility for our dogs and their behavior. But why do we assign so much blame and shame to a simple situation where the dog behaves badly? We need to figure out ways of learning better handling skills and control over our dogs' behaviors without causing undue shame.

It's so easy to say that someone's a horrible handler when the dog miss-behaves, but what's really going on is that the person, and dog, need to improve their skills. One mistake does not a horrible handler make. And, let's face it, dogs will be dogs. We correct them, reinforce and reward good behavior and do the best we can. Even so, stuff happens, we make mistakes, but we aren't mistakes, or horrible. Maybe our skills and actions are horrible, but we are not.

So here's to all of us, when we make mistakes, let's remember that we're not horrible handlers, we're not horrible period. And let's remember to leave judgments somewhere else.
Tags: accessibility, anxiety, blindness, dialogues, disability, disability related, guide dogs, independence, politics

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