Aries and I: Learning to Play

Interacting with a guide dog isn’t all work you know. There are lots of opportunities for exchanges of affection during grooming. And cozy snuggling at the end of the day as everyone winds down for sleep.More active moments might include things like wrestling after my golden gal’s breakfast, tugging a favorite squeaky toy, or playing fetch.

But wait. One of the players is blind. How does that work?

Well, I have discovered that playing with Aries is also a matter of learning. For both of us.

During our time at The Seeing Eye, we were able to play in our room, or in a special fenced area outside.However, the space in our room soon proved inadequate for Aries to run and jump as she loves to do. Despite her frequent prancing. She offered me her bone and tugged a bit amid fierce growling, and chased the ball when I was able to find it for throwing. The outside play-yard did not interest her very much. We used this as time for reinforcing “come” and she was more interested in this aspect than romping through the assorted large balls scattered around the area.

Sadly, once we were home, play continued to be a challenge.

The bone became more of a private focus. A way for Aries to release pent-up energy at various times of the day. Okay by me. I need my time too. For things like eating a meal, reading a book, and chatting on the phone.

But the squeaky toy and the ballwere slow in bringing us together. When I tossed one of them, Aries either ignored me completely, or pranced about as she did at the Seeing Eye–touching the toy to my hand, but never handing it over.

I started saying things like, “give to me,” and “can I play?”

But alas.

The situation became all the more frustrating when Aries decided that my sighted husband seemed a better playmate. She offered him the bone. Offered hm the ball. Offered him the squeaky toy.

He did his best to honor her training. But that eye-contact thing kept getting in the way. When he turned away from her solicitations, she stopped playing altogether for days. So he started saying things like, “take to Mama.”

No good. Mama doesn’t play right.

Finally, Aries took things into her own paws.

One evening she brought the ball to where my husband and I were watching TV. I grabbed it and tossed it over her head down the hall. She jumped up and ran, skittered and skidded on the tile as it bounced away and I whooped with delight. She returned with the ball, and put it on the sofa where I could find it. Again I tossed it down the hall. Again she ran, skittered and slid. As I whooped and cheered. And a new game was born!

Since then, Aries has taken charge. She puts the ball beside my foot under the breakfast table. Or brings it to where she is noisily chewing her bone.Sometimes she even puts it into my hand.

And as for the squeaky toy, Aries runs to get it, prances about sounding her whereabouts, and lets me “sneak” up on her to grab it and run away.

Genius! pure genius!

So yes, Aries and I share lovely moments of togetherness as I brush her each morning. And yes, we enjoy a good walk, and a cozy snuggle. But holy cow, watch out when it’s time to play! You just might learn something!

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