Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Blind man completes NYC 5k with his seeing eye dog

Question at issue: How is a man without sight able to run on uneven terrain and complete a race without being able to see where he is going?

Tom Panek was always a runner but he wasn’t always blind. When he first lost his site, he was afraid to run because it initially seemed impossible. When he started running again he had a friend act as a guide and assist him on runs; however, Tom felt that he didn’t have the same freedom as he once did and wanted to explore more options. With the assistance of a guide dog, Tom feels that he has his independence back and is able to feel safe doing an activity that he has always loved to do. Gus, Tom’s guide dog, is trained to act as Tom’s eyes and treats his safety as his number one priority. Since Tom doesn’t have the ability to see or perceive motion at all he has to entirely put his complete trust in Gus to work as his eyes. While running, Gus is looking for overhead and ground level obstacles that could potentially impede Tom’s safety. They communicate through tugs at the leash, alerting their owner to changes in elevation or potential tripping hazards, and a trust system.  Working as a normal seeing eye dog just at a faster pace Gus has given Tom his freedom back.

Implications/Consequences: There are many obvious implications that come along with this. Tom is forced to run at a much slower pace and has to be extra cautionary in large groups of people. Tom and Gus completed their first race together in New York City’s 5 miler. Although they made frequent safety pit stops they were able to cross the finish line together!

Although Tom lost his sense of sight, he has able to “see” through Gus. Through slight tugs and pulls at the leash Tom and Gus work together to create a communication to help Tom “see”.

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