opinion | My guide dog can protect me from a lot of things — but not from guns - petsitterbank

opinion | My guide dog can protect me from a lot of things — but not from guns

Stephen Kuusisto, an essayist and poet, holds a university professorship at Syracuse University. His books include the memoir “Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey.”

The No. 1 question I’m asked by inquiring strangers is: “If you’re attacked, will your dog defend you?”

I’m a guide dog user, as the terminology goes. I travel everywhere in the company of a professionally trained guide dog. She can prevent me from being struck by cars and stop me from falling down stairs. She can walk me around detours on sidewalks and take evasive action when a kid on a skateboard veers toward us.

During her training, she was introduced to sudden, frightening noises — her trainers fired an Olympic starter pistol to simulate the sound of a car backfiring. She can do almost anything to keep us safe as a team.

I was in mind of this recently when I entered a supermarket for the first time after the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo. As I approached the store, I heard two men arguing in the parking lot. They were wildly angry. Their rage was radiant. I could feel it in the air. This was the first time in my more than 30 years traveling with guide dogs that I felt a dark dread in a public space.

In general, people think of blindness as a terrible state of vulnerability. Folks imagine that without sight they wouldn’t be able to navigate the streets or do anything in public.

None of this is true. But the impression still hovers. In turn, I’m often told that my very movements in public are an example of bravery. This is also not true. Blind travel is deliberate and secure, even in sometimes extraordinary circumstances.

There’s no doubt that guide dogs are remarkable, especially under pressure. But I repeat: They cannot protect us from public violence.

No one is imperative to rage. But here I’m going to risk sentimentality: Ease of travel in the civic square is dependent on the existence of a welcoming and even loving society. This is true for all. We must operate with the firm belief that the world will receive us — not as homage, not as inspiration, but simply because we believe in love in circulation.

The American social contract says that we all have the right to live out of harm’s way, that the work of government is to secure our common liberty. While we talk endlessly about the Second Amendment to the Constitution, no one talks about the preamble. It comes before the amendments. It says:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

If our nation has lost the ability or willingness to promote the general welfare and ensure domestic tranquility, then we have lost public space.

My dog ​​can’t protect me from bullets. Unlike at the World Trade Center, on a street, in a square, at any point in our public travels, there’s no stairwell she can take me to if gunshots ring out.

I must imagine my destination in advance wherever I’m going. I refuse to believe that a place called general welfare is out of reach.

For those strict constructionists out there: The preamble came first.

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