The interaction, for various reasons, between human beings and dogs goes back centuries. People with poor sight or who were completely blind found it possible to move about by using dogs – not necessarily a specific breed as a large animal or smaller varieties were acceptable. A dog could assist if a rope was tied around its neck or body. The animal would move forward, the man or woman held the other end of the rope would give a tug to indicate movement. This probably took patience and care before the idea worked well. But a close companionship had begun plus a certain independence. A painting in the Louvre, Paris dated the middle 18th century portrays a blind man and his guide dog.
In 1953 the South African Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was founded by Gladys Evans. A training centre began some time later. Later in 1958 a property in Sandton, Johannesburg became the home of the Guide Dogs Association. By 1986 the need for the work of the organization – for both the humans and the dogs – saw the Gladys Evans Training Centre opening in Witkoppen.
In different parts of the world the need for this service had already begun. In 1929 a Guide Dog school had been formed in Morristown, New Jersey called The Seeing Eye while in 1931 the Blind Association began in Britain.
AND ON THE HOME FRONT – From 2 Dogs and a Parrot
MARGUERITE: “Recently we went for a long drive to Stellenbosch, a university town and a wine making area. By the word “we”, I meant our two humans, Honey Belle, Goya and me. The humans call it a beautiful drive most of it alongside False Bay. On this day we saw fishermen pushing their boat from the shore toward the water and as they moved forward allowing the nets to slip into the sea. When that was done the boat’s engines were started and off they went to a greater depth and hoping for a good catch. Honey Belle and I were most interested and watched through the window. Our humans had explained all of this to us.”
HONEY BELLE: “Hey move over so I can also see! ”
MARGUERITE: “Do not push, I am little but I have more long fur than you have.”
HONEY BELLE: “Never mind.” “We were carefully watching to see if there had already been a catch and maybe the humans would stop to buy some fish. You see we both like a small piece of fish, preferably nicely fried.”
GOYA: “Those two! Me, I sat in my smaller cage which has been placed on the lap of – she who feeds me and cleans my cages – we were strapped in as the law states. The girls on the back seat were also strapped in but could move around but not jump around. Fish is not my kind of food but what caught my eyes were all the many birds flying around or sitting on the sand watching the fishermen in case a scrap of this or that got dropped.
They are called gulls, I believe. Much bigger than I am but not so good looking. Then I heard the call “look there are some African Black Oyster Catchers, aren’t they handsome? They have an orange bill and eye ring and pinkish coloured legs. I considered for a bit, then decided I might just close my eyes and think deep thoughts.”