All Guide dogs are noble when they need to be, but I think the best Guide dogs possess that “lovable rogue” quality which brings out the funny side of life.
My Guide dog Trudy has those Labrador eyes which melt the most hardened hearts, and she knows precisely who will fall for her “please rescue me, I’m starving” act. The Postie has got used to her head appearing round the door with an empty food bowl hanging from her mouth. But people who aren’t used to Trudy never cease to tell me that they think “she might be hungry”. The empty bowl with its well-chewed edges is the picture of neglect when it’s dropped at the feet of a stranger. She looks up at the unsuspecting newbie with sorrowful eyes, which I’m positive she has learned to enlarge just to increase the pathos.
The starved Labrador act comes into its own when we’re out and about. When we’re walking through a busy street I always have to be ready for the sudden lurch of the harness – it invariably means she’s spied a discarded sandwich crust, or a lone chip. As I know her tactics I can usually grab her back before she’s reached the edible item, but she still occasionally manages to outwit me.
Sometimes she’ll lunge for something dramatically, but when I prize it from her mouth I find it’s nothing more than an apple stalk or a dried piece of orange peel, or a till receipt. I can almost hear the “Ha ha, fooled you” snigger as I pretend the incident never occurred (I have to maintain my own street cred…).
In the early days of our partnership Trudy committed some worthy food crimes. One late evening I was walking down the hill towards Hereford Town centre and Trudy suddenly appeared to be limping. I was alarmed, and stopped her to check her paws in case she’d trodden on some glass or chewing gum. I was unable to find anything, so gave her the command to continue. As she did so I noted that she was definitely walking peculiarly, and became quite concerned. After stopping her again and checking her more thoroughly, I discovered a dirty great doughnut hanging out of her chops. She’d procured it without even stopping so I hadn’t noticed the crime take place. And she was so determined to hide her stolen booty that she was trying to eat the doughnut on the hop before she got rumbled. Unfortunately for Trudy, walking in harness whilst munching a doughnut requires considerable practise, so she didn’t get away with that one.
At home Trudy is a seasoned thief. Her bed is a hoard of socks, gloves, shoe laces and other items which may come in handy later. Stealing underwear from my laundry basket and presenting them as “gifts” to visitors is one of her favourite antics. I’ve had to buy a Trudy-proof laundry basket to protect my dignity… (Trudy is a canine expert on the topic of “how to embarrass the parents”).
She has only thieved from a shop once. This particular crime occurred in a local pet supplies shop, in which ironically I was purchasing some rawhide chews. Just as I was paying for the multipack of pressed rawhide, I was aware of a rapid crunching sound in my left ear. Torn between ignoring it and facing the inevitable, I reluctantly plunged for the latter. I reached down to Trudy’s muzzle, and felt the thin end of a gluten-free chew disappearing into her mouth. She looked up at me with such imploring “I couldn’t help it” eyes that the shopkeeper actually offered her another one! “They’re only 43p” he said, chuckling at the notion of a shoplifting Guide dog. That’s Labrador psychology for you.
Trudy is untrustworthy whenever there is unsupervised food. (The 5 mince pies left unwittingly too near met a grisly end last Christmas). But despite the fact that she has earned the nickname of “The Hoover”, I have never felt unsafe when I’m out with her. She has never once led me over a kerb into the road, or put me in any danger. I am 100% certain that Trudy’s professional role as a Guide dog overcomes the scallywag Labrador when my safety is in question. Trudy is a synonym for mischief, but the fact is I know I can trust her with my life.
Although there have been times when Trudy’s antics have caused me to cringe with embarrassment, there is nothing about her that I would ever wish to change.