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In a lyrical love letter to guide dogs everywhere, a blind poet shares his delightful story of how a guide dog changed his life and helped him discover a newfound appreciation for travel and independence.
At the age of thirty-eight, Stephen Kuusisto—who has managed his whole life without one—gets his first guide dog, a beautiful yellow labrador named Corky. Theirs is a partnership of movement, mutual self-interest, and wanderlust. Walking with Corky in Manhattan for the first time, Steve discovers he’s “living the chaos of joy—you’re in love with your surroundings, loving a barefoot mind, wild to go anyplace.”
Have Dog, Will Travel is the inside story of how a person establishes trust with a dog, how a guide dog is trained. Corky absolutely transforms Steve’s life and his way of being in the world. Profound and deeply moving, theirs is a spiritual journey, during which Steve discovers that joy with a guide dog is both a method and a state of mind. Guaranteed to make you laugh—and cry—this beautiful reflection on the highs, lows, and everyday details that make up life with a guide dog provides a profound exploration of Stephen’s lifelong struggle with disability, identity, and the midlife events that lead to self-acceptance.
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.20(d)|
About the Author
Stephen Kuusisto is the author of the memoirs Have Dog, Will Travel; Planet of the Blind (a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year”); and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening and of the poetry collections Only Bread, Only Light and Letters to Borges. A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright Scholar, he has taught at the University of Iowa, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Ohio State University. He currently teaches at Syracuse University where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. He is a frequent speaker in the US and abroad. His website is StephenKuusisto.com.
Read an Excerpt
Have Dog, Will Travel
People ask: “What’s it like?” “What’s it like walking with a guide dog?” “How does a dog keep you from harm?” Or they say, “I don’t think I could do that, I mean, what’s it really like to trust a dog that way?”
Truthfully it’s not like anything else. There’s no true equivalent for the experience.
My wife is an equestrian. Years ago she was a guide-dog trainer. “On a horse,” she says, “you’re hypervigilant, aiming to avoid accidents by controlling your animal. Sometimes you and your horse will find a meditative rhythm. But you can’t count on horses to look out for you.”
A guide dog is not like a horse. She looks out for you. All the time.
What’s it like? I can only help you imagine what a guide dog feels like.
Say you’re in Italy in a swirl of motorbikes. It’s Milan with thin sidewalks, confusing street crossings, and barbaric drivers. Montenapoleone Street is crowded with what seems like all the people in the world.
Let’s say you’re walking at night to the Duomo with Guiding Eyes “Corky” #3cc92. Corky does her thing and relishes her job. She pulls you along but the pull is steady and you feel like you’re floating. Her mind and body transmit through a harness an omnidirectional confidence.
Why are you going to Milan’s famous cathedral with a dog? One of your favorite books is Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, which contains passages so beautiful you sometimes recite them aloud. Of the Duomo Twain says it has “a delusion of frostwork that might vanish with a breath! . . . The central one of its five great doors is bordered with a bas-relief of birds and fruits and beasts and insects, which have been so ingeniously carved out of the marble that they seem like living creatures—and the figures are so numerous and the design so complex, that one might study it a week without exhausting its interest . . .”
Now it’s just you and your dog. You’re going there to touch the birds and fruits and beasts and insects carved from marble.
Not only are the streets teeming with people, there are skateboarders. Now your Labrador eases left. You hear a clatter of wheels. You think how Milan must be dangerous for skateboarding with its jagged paving bricks, broken sidewalks, and Vespas like runaway donkeys. Motorbikes plunge through crowds. Someone does a dance with death every twenty feet. The city is a fantastic, ghastly place. In the midst of this your dog is unflappable. Trained to estimate your combined width, she looks for advantages in the throng and pulls ahead because the way is clear or she slows suddenly because an elderly woman has drifted sideways into your path. Sometimes she stops on a dime, refusing to move. Which she does now.
There’s a hole in the pavement. It’s unmarked—there are no pylons or signs. A stranger says it’s remarkable there aren’t a dozen people at the bottom of the thing. Corky has saved you from breaking your neck. She backs away, turns, then pushes ahead.
It doesn’t feel like driving a car. It’s not like running. Sometimes I think it’s a bit like swimming. A really long swim when you’re buoyant and fast. There’s no one else in the pool.
Yes, this is sort of what it’s like, but there’s something else—a keen affection between you and your dog, a mutual discernment. Together you’ve got the other’s back.