As many of you know, Will Miller lost his sight while battling cancer in his twenties. He completed law school and now practices law with the support of a guide dog. His last dog, Anja, passed away in 2019. Will shares his experience on getting a new guide dog.
1. When did you meet your new guide dog?
I met Lois in October of 2021 at The Seeing Eye® (TSE), a guide dog school in Morristown, New Jersey. TSE was founded in 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee, and is the oldest existing guide dog school in the United States. There I received training over a span of two weeks.
2. What kind of dog is Lois?
Lois, who is 2.5 years old, is mostly yellow Labrador with a mix of golden retriever (one of her “grandparents” was a golden retriever).
3. Why did you choose to go with Lois?
I chose to get a guide dog from The Seeing Eye because of their good reputation among blind professionals and the fantastic experience I had with my first guide, Anja, also from The Seeing Eye. The trainers at the Seeing Eye chose Lois for me based on criteria like walking pace, pull resistance (how hard I can tolerate a dog’s pull through the harness handle), demeanor, working and social environment where the guide will work, etc. The trainers had several potential guides in mind for me when I went to the Seeing Eye, and it took several days of observation and training for them to decide that Lois would be the best match for me.
4. What is the process like to find a new guide dog?
To find a new guide dog, you must apply to a dog guide school and be admitted. My last guide, Anja, passed away on December 20, 2019, and I waited a year to reapply to allow time to grieve. When I reapplied in 2020, the school had a backlog of applicants due to COVID-19, so it took almost a year to be admitted.
5. How long did it take for you and Lois to get acclimated to each other?
Lois and I bonded within a matter of days, but the working relationship takes longer to develop. It usually takes guide dogs six months to a year to become acclimated to their new home. By then the working relationship should be strong, but it continues to develop as long as a guide dog team (guide and handler) are together.
6. What would you like for readers to know about you and Lois?
Lois is a wonderful guide and companion. She gives me a greater level of independence and confidence, both at home and at work. People should never touch, speak to, or stare at a guide dog while they are working. If a guide dog learns to seek attention from others, then it can become distracting and no longer be able to keep us (the guide and handler team) safe. Lois is trained to be “on duty” and alert while she is working, which enables her to guide me safely around obstacles and traffic.
She is trained to know that she is working when she is wearing her leather harness, which has a handle attached for me to hold on to so that she can pull and guide me. When the harness comes off, Lois knows that she is off duty, and it is OK for people to speak to and pet her. People are often amazed at how quickly her demeanor changes when I take the harness off because she becomes a regular (and often rambunctious) dog. She even has a bit of a mischievous streak when she is at home and not working, but she’s all business in her harness.