Because my life is not nearly surreal enough on its own, I make sure to ride the bus just about every day. Lots of people ride the bus, many of whom are fascinated by my guide dog. I don’t blame them; she’s cute, alert, and good at her job, and she’s unusual-looking for a guide dog. The less familiar with Earth customs they are, however, the more likely my fellow passengers are to start up a conversation with me.
Wednesday morning I boarded the bus in a fine mood, if a bit exhausted. I smiled at the people near me as I sat down, still buoyed by the festivities of the previous night. A man across the aisle noticed my dog and asked, “Shouldn’t she be a shepherd?”
I get that occasionally, and as I said, Ms. Pup is not a usual guide dog breed, but other than having a tail and a snoot and a lot of smarts, she doesn’t really resemble a shepherd.
“Not really,” I said as politely as possible, and started fumbling with my iPod.
“I thought they were all supposed to be shepherds?”
“No, there are a number of different breeds used as guide dogs: labs, goldens, shepherds…”
“Didn’t they start out all shepherds?”
“Sure, in the ’20s and for a while after that.”
“I guess you could train pretty much anything to guide, right, if you worked hard enough at it?”
“Not really; they need to be able to-”
“I heard about a guy once, he was blind, and they trained a turtle to guide him around!”
“A…..turtle? Aren’t they a bit slow?”
“Oh, he was an old guy, so it worked out fine. See, you really can train just about anything to do that job.”
“Um, not exactly. The animal needs to have the mental capacity to carry out the tasks of guiding, including intelligent disobedience, problem-solving…..”
“Hey, can your dog answer the phone?”
At this I paused. Ms. Pup actually does trot over to the phone when it rings, in the hopes that it will be someone interesting, but she doesn’t answer it. “No, she doesn’t,” I said.
“But you could train her to do it, right?”
“….I guess so. I mean, if I needed to.”
“Hey, do you have, y’know, one of those special phones? With the special ring?”
“Um…I have a phone, and it rings, and I talk on it, but that’s about it. It’s just a phone.”
“Oh, okay. I figured you had a special phone.”
Nope. And the only turtle I have is the stuffed one I gave to the dog about a month ago. She has since chewed off its shell and face. I’m thinking it’s not going to be doing much guiding.