He held his long-time friend in his arms.
He just couldn’t believe what they were asking him to do! His furry buddy had helped him with so much, there was just no way he would do what they suggested. He wasn’t a piece of garbage to toss away. There had to be another solution.
For Ken Williams, life unfolded pretty much like anyone else’s.
He woke up, got dressed, had breakfast, and then went to work. The only difference was he did it without sight … and the help of his trusty guide dog, Abel. He had spent 8 wonderful years with this loyal pooch.
Abel was a Golden Labrador that checked all the boxes when it came to the high standards within the canine profession.
He was intelligent, eager in training, keen to please, and calm whenever things got chaotic or loud. But lately, Ken noticed something was off with his friend.
Although the circumstances changed on a daily basis – things like weather and how busy the streets were – the route he took never varied.
It was always the same path, the same crossings and other major obstacles. So, when Abel’s reaction time slowed, he couldn’t help but worry.
The commute involved crossing three side streets and one major road.
After that, the two of them had to navigate through the train station so he could take the last stretch of the journey. But things started to decline, and it all started with a simple bump.
Even though most people in the neighborhood knew the pair, and knew to give them a bit more space, there were still other commuters lost in thought and not watching where they were going.
Abel started running into more and more pedestrians. It got so bad he had to take him to the vet.
Ken wasn’t a fool. He knew his best friend was getting on in years.
His mind raced to the worst-case scenario – that Abel was ill, and he would have to endure the nightmare of putting him down. He was a nervous wreck by the time the final test results came in.
Out of all the health issues the adorable Golden Retriever could have had, Abel, his guide dog, was going blind!
It explained everything, but it was heart-breaking. But when the agency came to him with a “solution”, he wasn’t happy at all.
Their solution? Just take away Abel and give him a new, younger guide dog.
Were they crazy?! Did they really think that after all these years together he could just give up his best friend like he was nothing? It was insane … but he still needed daily help.
Ken refused to part with his pet.
The simple fact that Abel had still been performing his duties by memory alone was astounding. He stood firmly with his decision until the association came back with a far better offer.
They said it would be fine for him to keep Abel as well as get a new guide dog.
His old friend wouldn’t be able to perform normal duties, and would have to go into medical retirement, but that was fine by him! But what would the new dog be?
When the big day came, Ken and Abel sat in the living room – one of them anxious, the other dozing on the floor.
When the doorbell rang, Abel jumped up and immediately positioned himself in the correct spot. Ken grinned and scratched behind his floppy ear then welcomed the guests in.
Her name was Gay, and the association member described her to Ken – a beautiful black Labrador with a chipper and eager personality.
Even though the normal procedure was to introduce owner and dog to each other, there was a farm more important introduction.
Even though he knew trained dogs would get along with each other, he wanted to make sure his old dog was happy and content.
They sat in silence as Gay approached Abel. A tiny chuckle from the association member signalled the final outcome.
The two of them were automatic friends!
Ken let out a long sigh of relief and held out his hand. It was time to take this new girl for a walk and see how she did. It might sound like a simple thing, but dog training for the blind is an incredibly in-depth process.
It’s a long journey of intense training.
After the puppies have been picked, they are taught rigorous bathroom training and how to walk in a straight safe line. After that, they learn how to listen for dangers. But the amazing feats don’t stop there.
Dogs must be trained to judge the height of doors and openings, be on the lookout while their owner is at the bank or in line for something.
There is also endless conditioning to teach them not to be distracted when on the job, but also being able to relax when they’re off the clock.
So, when the group went out for their walk, Ken felt the familiar, crisp feelings of movement through the harness that Gay was on alert and working at optimum levels.
In his other hand he could feel how the simple leash signalled to Abel that he was just on a leisurely walk.
Both dogs seemed very content with the new arrangement, and it filled Ken with joy.
He was still going to be able to carry on with his life but also keep his furry friend at his side. There was also another added bonus.
The pair had been a fixture of the community, but the new addition had the locals abuzz with chit chat and congratulations.
They were also so happy they would get to pet Abel more often. It all worked out in the end.