Photo of Dave wearing a red shirt and sunglasses bending over petting Katie the black lab guide dog in front of a brick wall

The Difference Between a Cane and a Dog: Stopping in a Reactive Vs. Proactive Environment

I had a guide dog for 12 years. Katie worked with me for 10 of those 12 years and we were a great team. People often ask me what the difference is between a cane and a dog. Aside from the obvious things, like the fact that you don’t have to clean up after a cane, or that a dog doesn’t just fold up and sit in the corner, there’s a completely different form of travel when you use a guide dog. It’s a Reactive vs. Proactive environment. This is in all relation to stopping. Literally, stopping physically on a street corner. Stopping is also the first component of my coaching program called Stop Look and Listen.

The Reactive Cane Stop.
When I walk down the street, my cane moves in front of me, side to side. It’s five feet long, and it is held around my stomach area. When I approach a street corner, I often will hit a light post. What other choice do I have, I have to figure out how to go around it. Or, let’s say it’s a newsstand or mailbox. In any case, I hit something with my cane, and I have to move around it. It’s then my decision, do I move to the left or the right? If I move left, maybe there’s grass, then I have to stop and go to the right of the object, where I find a sidewalk or the street corner’s wheelchair ramp. The cane comes into contact with the ramp, and then I know where I am.
The Proactive Way of Stopping with a Dog
When Katie and I would walk down a street, we would walk fast. When we approach the street corner, Katie was trained to stop at the ramp. But let’s say there’s that same mailbox or newspaper stand in my way. She will push me to the side, to go around it. Sometimes she’ll push me through the grass, or sometimes just onto another part of the sidewalk. Or sometimes, she’ll stop and look at me, trying to tell me there’s something there. Maybe it smells good to her, or maybe there’s no way around whatever object it is without pushing me off the curb. In any case, we are a proactive team. I use her eyes and her decision making to help get me where I want to go.
In both forms of travel, the fundamental stoppage is the same. The end result of moving and working around the stoppage is that I will arrive at the street corner despite having to move around an object. But the interaction with the stop is what I find fascinating. Am I going to let it interrupt my travel? Only for a moment. But I have to recognize that it is there.

Stop Look and Listen

The same thing happens in life in a mental capacity. We get interrupted and move around things in our minds all the time. My goal with the first part of Stop Look and Listen., the Stop, part, is to take notice of things you may have forgotten or didn’t think were of much consequence before. To go back to my example of using a cane, I know that if I choose the wrong way around this object in the middle of the sidewalk, there is a curb I might fall off. But with a dog, part of that decision is left to her, because she can see where the curb is. Hence, reactive Vs. Proactive.

So where do you find yourself doing reactive stopping? Does that stopping prevent you from moving forward? That’s what the first month of this 3-month program will work on, stopping to react and also be proactive about those reactions. To stop and think for a little bit longer than you might be accustomed to. Book a session with me now to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *