I wanted to round out the month with a highlight of a recipient of a Leader Dog. Lisa graciously allowed me to meet her at her home and photograph her with her Leader Dog, Lucian. My time with Lisa was one of my most educational moments and made me take a step back and respect those with disabilities and their ability to adapt. Lisa was a very humble teacher. I had so many questions and she was willing to answer all my questions.
When I am taking photographs of people, I normally ask people to mirror me and “stand like this” and sometimes “cross your arms like this”. While I wasn’t trying to create posed images with her, it was still so very important to give her direction and make sure she knew what I was asking of her and where I was. Through my communication, she was able to “see” what I was doing. I explained to her as I was taking pictures so she knew what I was photographing. “Lisa, I am now taking close up photos of Lucian laying on the ground in his harness next to you.”
Before Lucian put his harness on, we were able to go out in his yard and play fetch. Lucian has a lot of down time when he is home. He isn’t working all the time and mostly only when he and Lisa are out in unknow spaces. When home, he has a large backyard where he is able to run and play and chase after toys. Lisa knows her home space from memory and is able to navigate pretty well…. during this time, Lucian is able to relax.
Once the harness goes on though, Lucian knows he is responsible for his human. From here, he knows to watch her and take caution where she goes. Lisa is able to grab his harness and put it on through touch and memory of where everything is.
Lisa is also able to do most of the work herself when headed out of the home. It’s Lucian that watches for traffic and obstacles and helps her navigate around them when she doesn’t know where things are.
In observing Lisa and Lucian, I realized they mostly communicate through touch, grip and movement. Lisa will occasionally talk to Lucian, but it is in little movements that he stops her or directs her around a parked car and keeps her from walking into the street when traffic is coming. These little discrete movements are the balance between the Leader Dog and the human. This non-verbal communication is how they work together to help Lisa to move around.
When I was out with Lisa and Lucian, it was amazing to see the two of them work together. Maybe it was my imagination, maybe not, but it seemed as though Lucian stood a little taller. It was as if he looks forward to “working” and doing his job. Don’t get me wrong, we had a lot of fun running in the back yard, but the harness and protecting Lisa gives him purpose.
I want to share photos of Lucian from Leader Dogs for the Blind. Between puppy raisers and trainers and all the lovely people at Leader Dog, you are able to see how invested all the volunteers and employees are in the success of these dogs and the work they do. Leader Dog representatives often keep in touch with all the clients and check in on them often to make sure they are doing well and working well with their Leader Dog.