I don’t like dogs, never have done, at least not since next door’s Alsatian jumped up and bit me on the face when I was three years old.
They smell, foul the pavement, cruise the park looking for things (and people) to chase; and the little mutt over the road yaps incessantly.
No, I really don’t like dogs. So why am I thinking of getting one?
Well, in the past year my vision has gone from bad but enough to get around with a white stick and only the odd accident, to agoraphobic – not wanting to leave the house alone for fear of getting lost or damaged.
Two incidents in particular brought this home to me; first, getting lost in my local park and ending up in the lake; then, just a week later, being saved as I was about to wander off the platform edge into the path of an oncoming Tube train.
Going blind is a hazardous business and minding the increasingly large gaps it leaves is hard work. No matter how good the tactile paving or the smartphone app sometimes I just zone out for a moment – and that’s when accidents happen.
But the more my sight deteriorates the more I need to leave the house. I want to swim and go climbing and visit friends and not feel intimidated.
I used to say that the worst part of losing my sight was losing the ability to read. Talking Books have gone a long way to filling that void. It’s not the same totally immersive experience but I get through many more books because it’s hands-free and makes doing the cooking and ironing more fun.
But I came late to Talking Books. I let my unwillingness to accept any loss of independence trump my need for an alternative.
So what do I like less, dogs or agoraphobia?
Fortunately guide dogs are not ‘click and collect’ items. Having contacted the association in January, it was reassuring to find myself at the start of a process that will take at least a year and that I can opt out at any time. I’m also happy to report that not being a dog-lover did not count against me. A guide dog, I was told, is a working dog, not a pet.
My climbing partner Matthew, (who promises not to delegate the job of leading me up rock faces to a hound in harness) assures me that being a dog-owner is great; not least because it means a member of the household regards you as god! I doubt my cat will see it that way.