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Have Dog, Will Travel: A Poet’s Journey
2018, 239 pages
Stephen Kuusisto grew up in Exeter, N.H. He was legally blind and could only see some colors and shapes. His parents didn’t want him to be pitied, so they told him that he had to “pass” as sighted. They thought his disability would make him a victim. Stephen went to school, read books (pressed up to his nose) and even marched in a Memorial Day parade. As an adult, he became a professor, teaching in a small college town, and carefully memorizing every path he needed to take. He was limited to going places where he knew the route. He longed to travel, to go to places like New York City. But alone and blind he could only dream of traveling.
All that changed when Stephen attended the Guiding Eyes for the Blind school and met his guide dog, Corky, a huge, lovable yellow Labrador Retriever. Corky and Stephen become a team, and they begin training together. One way Corky differs from a pet is the she is taught “intelligent disobedience.” If a blind person decides to try to cross a street when there is traffic, the guide dog knows when it is dangerous, and it will not move. On day 18 of the school they take a field trip to Manhattan, a place that Stephen had longed to go.
Before, Stephen was a blind man on his own, sometimes using a cane, now he was with a beautiful dog. And she was leading him fearlessly. Corky breaks the ice with people. Stephen was standing outside the famous toy store FAO Schwartz in New York and two young German children asked to pet Corky. Stephen said yes, and they had a wonderful time hugging Corky and rubbing her belly, “a spontaneous belly-rub klatsch. Then more people came. A dozen. People unbeknownst to each other, drawn by softness and animal faith in the heart of a great city.”
Once Stephen was alone and disabled, but with Corky “suddenly I was in the world as an adept blind guy with a superior dog.” It made all the difference.
Stephen also writes about the history of guide dogs for the blind, and experiences he has had as a person with a disability.
This is a heart-warming book about a man who didn’t give up on his dreams, and the dog and trainers who made traveling and living a wonderful adventure for him.
Robbin Bailey, Reference Librarian