If you’re legally blind, you have the option of getting a guide dog to assist you in your daily life. While there are many benefits to having a guide dog, you must also take into account the reasons for not getting one before making that life-changing decision.
In this article, we list the reasons that might make you reconsider getting a guide dog.
1. They can be costly
In case you didn’t know, guide dogs are expensive to maintain. You may not have to shell out a dime to get a guide dog, but the costs of feeding and caring for one can be prohibitive. Unless you can spare $1200 a year, on average, for vet visits and food, a guide dog may not be for you.
2. Dog hair gets everywhere
A guide dog given to you will usually be a German Shepherd, Golden or Labrador Retriever—big dog breeds that shed a lot of hair. Their hair will get on your clothes, couch, inside your car if you have one, in your workplace, and even on other people. Constantly cleaning up and apologizing for their errant shedding can sometimes be frustrating.
3. They can be inconvenient
Ironically, guide dogs can give you certain conveniences, such as added mobility and an improved sense of well-being and confidence in getting around with their assistance. But a guide dog can also make it inconvenient for you. New guide dogs have to be trained and you have to work with them to see if you’re a good match. This could take a couple of weeks and you’ll have to devote a reasonable amount of time to learn the commands and get used to working together.
4. They can impact your mobility
Some cabs or good Samaritans may let you ride, but not the dog. Some owners of shops or restaurants may not be too friendly, and are sometimes ignorant of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and may not allow your guide dog to go in with you. It’s a problem that sometimes occurs in other places like Japan and the UK.
And while they’re usually allowed to travel with you on a plane and stay by your side in the plane, you may have to give notice to the airline at least 48 hours before the flight.
5. Retiring them is painful
Guide dogs can’t and won’t work for you forever. On average, a guide dog will serve you for 6-8 years before they reach the retirement age of 9 years. Although exceptions are made to this rule and the guide dog can be allowed to serve you if he’s still strong and healthy, and no replacement dog is available, your guide dog will still leave you eventually.
Guide dogs also aren’t indestructible—sometimes they develop health issues and could pass away. The loss of a guide dog by death or retirement, where they’re sent back to their school and re-homed as pets, can be heartbreaking. The only way to avoid this painful experience is to hope they remain healthy, or you adopt your guide dog as a pet after they’re retired.
Getting a guide dog if you’re legally blind is not a decision taken lightly. The point of this article isn’t to discourage you from getting a guide dog, but to let you know the gravity of the decision and to help you prepare for the responsibility.
Remember that a guide dog is a living, breathing, drooling, eating, drinking, pooping and peeing thing. If you can handle all the pros and cons of having a guide dog, by all means, go get one. On the other hand, if you feel you aren’t ready or can’t be responsible for one, there are other options. You can use a cane or walking stick if you’re totally blind, or get smart glasses online if you’re vision-impaired.