Confessions of a Guide Dog: the Blonde Leading the Blind

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mark Carlson, owner of guide dog Musket, has written a very good memoir about his blindness and about working with Musket. He describes what a guide dog does, how they lead a blind owner, and even how they understand traffic lights. Guide dogs are smart, loyal and well-trained, but each dog has its own personality. Musket is proof of this. In this book, Musket also has his say.

Mark is a blind writer, historian, and docent at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. He and his father and brother are all blind due to Usher's Syndrome, a hereditary eye disease.

The writing style is straightforward and matter-of-fact, making it an easy book to follow. My only "confession" would be that I thought the book would be more from the dog's point of view. However, Musket DOES have his say, and makes smart remarks throughout the book—especially if it had anything to do with food.

The book opens before Mr. Carlson receives his guide dog, with some discussion of what it means to be blind. The author is able to see shapes, and movements, but not much more. He doesn't really care what label is applied to him; blindness is just a part of who he is. To Mark, the most important sense is a sense of humor.

The book touches upon many issues related to blindness, and disability, aside from the narrative regarding the dog. Some of these include travel, advocacy, assistive technology, the need for respect instead of pity, and general attitudes towards people with disabilities.

Some specific issues related to guide dogs included travel, traffic, treats (which Musket sought all the time), guide dog etiquette, and issues surrounding the inevitable time when the dog would be too old to work. There were ample examples regarding the issue that service animals are allowed anywhere. Throughout the book, the author uses humor, and comments from Musket to make the book more readable and enjoyable. It was readily apparent that Musket opened the world up for the author, as he was able to do things that he would otherwise not have been able to do. All in all, I would recommend this book as a good read, especially for those who have had no contact with service animals, or for those who might be considering one.

Karen Broderick, Patron