Back on the Handle Again by author and proofreader Jo Elizabeth Pinto #Author’sCorner #GuideDogs #WordPressWednesday

Back on the Handle Again by author and proofreader Jo Elizabeth Pinto #Author’sCorner #GuideDogs #WordPressWednesday


It sure feels good to have a harness handle in my hand again. I had been afraid my skills would be really rusty after a year and a half, but aside from a few times when my hand and foot signals worked faster than my verbal commands, everything came back to me as if I hadn’t taken a break at all.

For those who aren’t guide dog handlers, our pups take a variety of cues from us to figure out what we want from them. They know words like “right” and “left,” but those words are also paired with hand gestures that indicate where we wish to go. We point our feet, and to some extent our heads and bodies, to align with our intended direction of travel as well. It sounds complicated, and it can be hard to put everything together at first. But before long the commands and gestures become second nature. Right after I retired Anlyn, my last guide dog, I found myself giving the “forward” command and the foot cues to my white cane now and then.

Miss Labragirl and I repeated the same short route four times, twice yesterday and twice today, to build our confidence as a new team. Our working styles match up well. She’s very serious and–like me–quite the perfectionist. If she makes a mistake and brushes my arm against a fence once, she’s going to make darn sure she keeps me well away from that fence every time we pass it after that.

At home, my girl is quiet and unobtrusive. It may take a little while for her to relax and get used to me, since she spent a lot longer with her puppy raiser family than most dogs do because of the pandemic. I’m okay with that.

Tomorrow, we’ll do a more complex route with heavier traffic and a stoplight. Then we’ll go to an outdoor shopping center to work inside Target and Petsmart. I think Miss Labragirl and I are up for the challenges.

Jo Elizabeth Pinto was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970’s. In 1992, she received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, she earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. She freelances as an editor and a braille proofreader.

As an author, Pinto entertains her readers while giving them food for thought. In her fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she draws on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.

Pinto lives in Colorado with her husband, her preteen daughter, and their pets.

Please visit or http://www.facebook.authorjepinto to find out more.


  1. amybovairdauthor Reply
    July 14, 2021

    Hi Jo and Patty,
    Thanks for sharing this post. I really enjoyed it. I have several friends with guides and am always fascinated by their journeys. It does sound complicated, initially, but I like that it becomes second nature shortly afterward. Sounds like the next day will be a welcome challenge with Miss Labrador. Such an exciting time!
    It will be interesting to see if her personality changes as the becomes more familiar with you and your home.
    And I can imagine how excited you are, Patty, to be going for your second guide! Your training is in just days!
    All the best to both of you!

  2. So happy for you, Jo…forward girl! *smiling heart*

  3. Thanks, Joan! 🙂

  4. Such an interesting article – brilliant

    1. Hi Barbara, glad you enjoyed the essay. Thanks for reading and for commenting to let us know you did. It’s always a pleasure to have you over in Patty’s Worlds.

    2. Thanks barbara for reading glad to know you enjoyed the essay. If this comment comes through twice please forgive. There appear to be some online ghosties on the prowl.

  5. Thanks, everyone. I think Miss Labragirl’s personality is pretty laid back. She may relax and become more playful over time, but she’s very much a lady. 🙂

    1. I’ve no doubt that she is going to settle in nicely.
      I figured you guys would be out working today.

  6. We’ve been getting most of our work done in the mornings before the worst of the heat comes. The nice part of in-home training is that the two or three routes are finished in a few hours, and the rest of my day is free. There’s an incredible amount of time lost in group relieving, loading and unloading the vans, driving into the city, waiting for the other students to do their routes, eating meals together, and so on. There’s something to be said for the social aspects of class, but I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, so I’ll trade those aspects for sleeping in my own bed and training on routes I’ll use every day. 🙂 Have a safe flight tomorrow!

    1. I suppose that’s the difference in training methods and schools too.
      We do a lot more than training routes. We have a lot of one on one time with our trainers when we’re not group training, we’ve meetings in the evening to go over other things other than the physical aspects of training, we spend a ton of time doing one on one obedience on and off leash in a secure run and we also spend a huge amount of time teaching our dogs to behave around other dogs.
      Our training is so intense it is unreal and still I get a lot of down time in my room.
      I suppose to each his own but when I train, I don’t want to need to worry about any of the things that go along with home life. I don’t have to clean, don’t have to cook, don’t have to focus on daily troubles with family or friends. It’s just training from sun up till sundown and the proof is in the dog.
      Again, this is not me being judgmental but I cannot imagine doing it any other way.
      As far as the home training I’ve had, all three times I had a Seeing eye trainer come to my home, they showed up at 7:30 AM and we trained until 5 PM in the evening. We did at least three routes and also worked on trouble spots and had intense discussions.
      Remember, again, this is just my opinion.
      Glad things are going well.
      Tonight when I finally got to the school, I had about 30 minutes to unpack and meet with the nurse, then training began.
      I finished up after supper with a 45 minute meeting and then a bit of one on one discussion with a trainer.
      Good luck.
      And have fun.

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