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From Cane to Canine

Editor's Note: Lynn Chu lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

I received my first guide dog one year ago, and I am so glad. I had used a white cane since age 15 when I started losing my sight. I'm now 39 and am enjoying the benefits and responsibilities of having a guide dog, though there are additional considerations to keep in mind.

When I use a cane, I need to know which cane techniques to employ in which situations. I have to know when it is safe to cross busy roads or get a sighted person to help.

I have to know where I am going and how to get there, such as which bus to take to a particular restaurant. When using a guide dog, I still need to make these kinds of decisions.

But a guide dog is a living being with needs. When my dog does something good, it is necessary to praise her. We wake up at six o'clock in the morning and go to bed at ten in the evening. I feed her twice a day and relieve her five times daily. Having a guide dog is much like having a baby--a lot of work but rewarding.

A white cane is not the same company as a guide dog, and it doesn't always give you the same type of information. If there are individuals coming towards me or following behind, for example, my dog lets me know by barking or getting me to move to the side. Although I had to learn how to get around Victoria on my own before I could get a guide dog and there is more I have to do when using a dog than with a cane, I wanted to get a guide dog because I would feel more independent, and also more secure when alone.

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