I wouldn’t have thought courage was one of the primary traits for a guide dog until I met Kimo and her owner, Graeme. I was invited to their home, where Kimo was off duty because Graeme is in familiar territory.
Breed: German shepherd
Age (in human years): 9
Weight: 82 pounds
Food: dry dog food, twice a day
Treats: Dentastix; cheese
Favorite Toy: hard rubber ball
Favorite Activity: playing ball; swimming
One Word That Best Describes Kimo: courageous
Kimo was 18 months old when she came to work for Graeme. Prior to that she spent her first year with a family, being socialized and acquiring a few manners, and then she spent about six months training to be a guide dog.
The day I visited Graeme, Kimo greeted me at the door, then sprawled on the floor under the dining room table. She’s very good about not getting underfoot in the house. She went to Graeme as soon as he called her, though, and he showed me how her rigid harness and leash are attached. She wears both so he can release the harness but still have the leash in his hand.
As soon as Kimo is wearing her harness, she’s on duty. She always walks on Graeme’s left side, and she makes sure he stays in the middle of the sidewalk so he doesn’t run into obstacles. She ignores people in public, although when he took her for a short walk to show me how she guides him over curbs and through intersections, she kept looking back over her shoulder, no doubt wondering why I was following them.
Kimo and Graeme walk to work every day—he runs his own physiotherapy clinic—but she would much rather go downtown. She likes taking the bus and going to the mall, and that’s really where her courageousness comes into play. She confidently manoeuvres them through traffic and crowds of people and she even rides up and down escalators, which is apparently quite rare, even for a guide dog. Throughout it all, she remains focused on the job at hand and very protective of Graeme.
As with any dog, recreation is important for Kimo. Graeme runs once a week with a human guide, and Kimo goes along and is allowed off leash while they run. Graeme puts a bell on her, though, so he can always hear where she is, and she is trained to come when he calls. She’s also a very strong swimmer and likes to run into the water after a ball. She and Graeme have also invented a ball game they play in their sloped backyard. Graeme stands downslope and Kimo lets her ball roll down so he can catch it. He tosses it to her, she catches it, and rolls it back again. Fun!
Until next time,