By Suzanne Alicie
Mr. Graham Waspe and his guide dog Edward moved through the world side by side for six wonderful years before the dog developed a rare form of glaucoma and lost his sight. Edward received the best veterinary care available, but due to the pressure of his condition and the pain caused, it was decided that the best course of action was to remove Edward’s eyes. Waspe and his wife Sandra were devastated by the loss of Edward as a guide dog, but made sure to help him adjust to his loss.
Waspe said “If it was a person or a child, you could at least explain to them what was going to happen. In the case of an animal, of course, you can’t, so we found that side of it very traumatic.” In November 2010, Waspe got another guide dog, a yellow lab named Opal. Amazingly, the new dog is also a “guide dog” of sorts for Edward, and they all visit schools and community groups in their area to teach people about guide dogs, their training and the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity. Edward was well known throughout the area, but it seems as if Opal is also establishing herself as a remarkable dog that completes this picture.
Waspe said he is sure that Edward is happier having another dog around, and he copes better with Opal by his side. Due to his training as a guide dog, Edward knows by listening to the commands given to Opal what to do. Just to get an idea of how well-trained guide dogs are and the relationships they develop with their humans, consider how Sandra Waspe describes Edward these days. “He’s just the same old Edward, except I have to say sometimes, ‘Mind your head Edward’.”
Between his loving and devoted owners and his new best friend Opal, Edward is doing quite well after his traumatic change of status. To adjust to the loss of his sight when that was what made him such an excellent guide dog must have been difficult, but Edward takes his cues from the Waspe’s and Opal, and he must know he is loved and cared for all the same.
The headline of a vision-impaired man keeping his sightless guide dog may cause some to scoff, but reading further and finding out that not only did Waspe keep Edward, he also got a guide for both of them is a touching and tender reminder that some parts of our lives aren’t disposable. Sure Opal would have made a fine guide dog for Waspe, but after six years of service from Edward why wouldn’t Waspe do everything he could to make sure Edward could live out the rest of his years being loved and comforted, even if he was no longer of use as a guide dog? The Waspes plan to care for Edward “until the day that either we go or he goes.”
The special relationship and deep devotion between a service dog and his human is deep and meaningful. When you consider everything that Waspe counted on Edward for, and that Edward never failed to keep him safe and guide him, the loss of Edward’s sight and ability to guide was devastating to Waspe on many different levels. He had to face the suffering of a good friend, the loss of a guide dog, and he knew when Edward lost his sight that he would have to adjust to another guide dog. Rather than putting Edward “out to pasture,” Waspe and his wife have honored the years of devotion and service by continuing to be Edward’s companions.
When it comes to special dogs and special people, when it comes to being responsible pet owners and loyal working dogs, the Waspes, Edward and Opal take the prize. Guide dogs have long been known for their ability to help their humans, some of them in extraordinary ways. But for those who need service dogs, just their presence everyday is a heroic act worthy of love and devotion.
Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie
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