>Remember my quest for the origins of Juno? Well, Jill recommended a couple of books to read to seek them out. One of them was “My Eyes Have A Cold Nose” by Hector Chevigny. I have read it! It was 3 volumes of double-sided British braille that looks like it’s on the edge of fading into oblivion, but I have read it! And alass, there wasn’t even the slightest mention of Juno!
But that’s ok. I happen to think everybody should read this book. Every freaking body should. I will warn you, it’s a little dry. But even though it was written back in the 40’s, scarily enough most of it still holds true today. Granted I have never been nearly lifted off my feet and hustled up the back stairs of a hotel. But I have been lifted onto a bus, or at least someone tried to. I don’t know how he did it, but he hit on everything possible. Everything non-guide dog, everything guide dog, it was amazing how he could get through so much stuff in such an objective way. The only thing I’d wished was to better get to know his wife and kids. But I guess the process of going blind basically overshadowed everything else.
He even talked about blindness and religion, and how religious folk have tried to say blindness was punishment for sin. Oh, the image of being blindfolded and immobilized in a hospital bed to hopefully allow the retina to reattach, and having some asshole pastor come into the room, invade your space and tell you to find the sin that brought that on, oh…I don’t have the words to express the multitude of feelings that shoot through me.
Speaking of imagery, I don’t think I can shake the image of having your eyeballs cut out by a horse-drawn hay-rake. God, the accidents that made people go blind back then are pretty ugly.
It’s amazing that woofer training hasn’t changed greatly over the years. I doubt folks who go to The Seeing Eye get on public buses to meet the trainers in Moristown, and I don’t know how many boxers are trained, but other than that, it’s not that much different. I love the description of Dog Day. It’s so perfect.
One thing that has changed a lot is access laws. Just reading about how they could get on public transit, but had to negotiate restaurant by restaurant makes me realize I would not have made it as a guide dog handler back then. Well, maybe I would have. I can get pretty determined. But the thought of wondering whether or not a place would serve me every time I wanted to go out to eat just makes me sad.
There are three things that I don’t agree with in the whole book. My biggest one is his feeling that folks who have just gone blind should immediately run out and get a dog. Maybe back then, that was a good idea, since Orientation and Mobility wasn’t so readily available, so people developed really shitty ways of moving and walking. He himself said he didn’t use a cane. But I don’t think that would be a good idea in the least now. Hell, if someone else was as brilliant as he was and could prove that they were a good traveler, then go nuts. But I don’t think that blanket statement is a safe one. Some people who lose their site later on have a much harder time adjusting, and if they got a dog, they would be a human projectile. The dog would take alpha status and that would be that.
The second thing is his statement that every single time a guide dog team doesn’t work out, it’s the master’s fault. Perhaps that was true back then when there were fewer teams to survey, but some dogs just stress out and can’t do the guiding thing when it comes down to it. I would not even think of blamingmy classmate for her dog’s fate.
The third thing is only a small one. He says that as soon as the dog realizes that you’re the one, and actually wants to guide you, not just to please the instructor, you are safe from then on. Hmmm. Well, for the most part, but accidents can still happen. People have fallen, a guide dog can have an off day, get distracted, it still happens. But those are the only three things. That’s pretty impressive, considering how many strong opinions he held.
I think everyone who has recently gone blind should read the book. I emailed the CNIB library and asked if they would consider converting the book to daisy, since folk who just lost their vision aren’t usually big on immediately reading braille. They said they’d pass on my suggestion. We’ll see what happens.
If there’s a similar book about deafness, people in wheelchairs, various mental illnesses, we should read all of them. Hector Chevigny is a brilliant man, and if there are other geniuses out there who can so eloquently advocate for themselves and others like them, we can all benefit from them. He puts me to shame and makes me rethink a lot of things. I wish we could all come to the realizations that he did so quickly and act accordingly. It would make all of our lives a hell of a lot easier. Anybody who goes blind and goes for a guide dog in a month is a goddamn genius. Maybe I should stop cursing so much. He thinks it sounds ugly.
As an aside, does anyone know why old braille books have a page at the beginning and one at the end that have nothing on them but repetitions of dots 2-4-6 followed by 1-3-5? This book had that and made me think about it again. I remember thinking as a kid when I’d see one of those, “Why does this book start with something that looks like owoowoowoowoowoowoow?” For everybody who thinks I’m smoking crack, dots 2-4-6 are the ow sign and dots 1-3-5 are the letter o. Wow. What a cheap way to end a deep post.