ZANE: A DIFFERENT KIND OF GUIDE
by Rebecca Kragnes
My first three guides were Golden Retrievers, and I fell in love
with the breed!
I was frustrated when months after retiring my last Golden, the
school didn't have a dog matching my needs who was even part Golden. Two
friends challenged my stereotypes about Labs and encouraged me to try one.
I called the school back and asked whether there were any dogs
which seemed to be screaming my name, and they told me about a male
Black Lab they thought would do well for me. Rejecting a dog because of
a difference in breed made me feel sad and ashamed. I told the school
I'd take him, and training was scheduled for a month later.
Zane's short Black lab fur is a stark contrast to the long fur
of the three Goldens preceding him. He is my best worker paws down,
but at first he seemed not to have a Demonstrative Love Department. I
often joked that although my Goldens worked for me because they loved me,
Zane loved me because he worked for me.
Zane takes it personally when I fall. He knows water, ice, or
anything slippery is a big problem and slows down markedly in harness
to let me know of its existence. Zane was in the yard off leash as I
took out some garbage. A layer of ice had built up on the sidewalk,
and it was extremely slick! As I very cautiously made my way back to
the house, I felt something touch my left leg and reached down to find
Zane keeping pace with me as if he was on leash and in harness. This
level of concern and devotion made it obvious that Zane cared about more
than just the work. He wanted to walk the slippery spots with me while
in an out of harness.
It felt like rejection when Zane wouldn't solicit attention when out
of harness the way my Goldens did. He seemed to enjoy physical affection
in harness, so I didn't understand what was wrong. After loosing my
voice, I noticed Zane stayed a lot closer to me when out of harness and
sought my attention.
I learned that physical affection was fine with him, but he
preferred it when I was quiet like when he was in harness.
There were times when I left Zane home with my husband Phil and
his guide. Zane had an injured paw and I wanted to give him a break
from working. Phil told me later that Zane cried for me, and ever since,
if I'm at the front door, he's right there as if to say. "Don't leave
Finally, a few days ago, Zane did another thing which showed so
much care and ingenuity it brought me to tears.
We were returning home using our alley to avoid climbing over a big
snow pile on the way to the front door. The alley path can be narrow,
and usually Zane and I make our way very slowly and carefully with him
in front of me. This position tests my balance issues, but I thought
it was our only alternative. I have no idea what gave him this idea,
but suddenly I felt him go up and walk on the deep snow on my left side.
I could almost hear him saying, "This will be easier for both of us.
I'll guide you from up here."
These events have assured me my Lab loves me just as deeply,
but expresses it very differently from his predecessors.
-- Rebecca Kragnes <rebeccak at tcq.net