Deanna and Mambo Lewis smiling for the photo in front of flowers

August 31, 2022

By: Mambo (the guide dog) Lewis

Hello, my name is Mambo; I am Deanna Lewis’ Guide Dog. I work at the Clovernook Center for the Blind & Visually Impaired in Cincinnati and have been an employee for seven years. Although I am technically a working dog, I spend most of my “work day” curled up on my warm and cozy bed in the Braille Bindery at Clovernook Center. In fact, many of my co-workers (the human kind) are jealous of me and would argue that I do have the best (and easiest) job at the company.

But my days aren’t all spent lying in bed. Being a guide dog can be a very stressful job! Here is what my typical day looks like, the good, the bad and the paw-mazing:

One of my favorite activities is to sleep and I am fortunate that my mommy gets up and gets herself ready before feeding me, so can sleep in a bit longer. Although, by the time she is ready, I am STARVING! Then again, I am a Labrador Retriever, so I’m pretty much always hungry…

I eat my breakfast with gusto around 5:30 a.m. I end breakfast with a refreshing bowl of water; then head outside to do my business. An interesting fact is that even though my Mom is legally blind, she can tell what I am doing outside by the arch or slant in my back when I am using the bathroom. She can then position herself so that she can easily pick up after me.

Once we are back inside, I take a quick nap before we head to work. When the weather is cooperating we like to walk to work, it’s just over a mile and we usually encounter several obstacles along the way. Whether it is trash cans, cars, low hanging branches, construction or the many potholes in the sidewalk; I enjoy guiding my mom around these obstacles and showing her the things we can’t safely pass. When I do something that is above-and-beyond, I get an extra piece of kibble!

Once we are at work, I take a nice drink of water and settle in for my busy work/nap day. Most of my day is spent sleeping, except for a few potty breaks and short walks.

After work, our schedule varies; sometimes we work a long day and head straight home. Other days, we may head to the grocery store, pharmacy, or go out with friends or family. I also accompany my mom to her many doctor’s appointments. I have a great memory and can often find a location again, even if I’ve only been there once.

I always remind my mom that I desire to be fed at 5:00 p.m., sharp! I am not happy if I have to wait much past that time; however, sometimes I do have to eat a bit later depending on our schedule.

I enjoy having a little fun in the evenings. When I am home, my harness is off; meaning I am just a regular dog. I like to grab some of my favorite toys and relax. Sometimes I have my doggy friends come visit. If I am really bored, I do like to play with/chase the cats, but most days, I am just as happy playing by myself and curling up next to my mom.

She brushes me daily, cleans my ears, and brushes my teeth every few days. I’m usually pretty tired and ready for bed by 8:30 p.m. Thus, the perfect ending to a very busy and productive day. I love my job because I get to safely guide my mom and accompany her to many different places. However, I do get a lot of time to rest, relax and just be a dog.

On weekends, when we don’t go to work, we will have friends over, or go out with them. We may ride the bus to varying locations and go exploring or embark upon other exciting adventures. We are able to travel occasionally; I always have fun exploring new environments with my mom.

Now that you know all about my day to day, here is some information about my job as a guide dog:

As part of my job, I am taught a fairly long list of vocabulary words and I’m always eager to learn new ones. I know basic obedience commands, such as: sit, down, stay, and heel. But I also know directional commands, like forward, left, right and halt. I can help my mom find objects such as empty seats, poles, buttons, steps, curbs, trash cans, doors, desks, elevators and escalators. I can even help my mom find Grandma’s car in a parking lot!

I am trained to always obey commands, unless it is unsafe to do so. This is called intelligent disobedience and it’s really important nowadays when facing distracted drivers. For example, my mom may give me the “forward” command to cross an intersection, but an approaching car runs a red light, I will disobey the command and refuse to move forward. If we have already begun crossing and are in immediate danger of being hit by a car; I will either speed up or back up, moving us to a safer area. This requires a lot of attention and skill. We definitely cannot afford for me to become distracted while I am working.

Along our route I will safely guide my mom around obstacles and objects that are along our path. If an area is too narrow for us to safely pass, I will stop to “show” these things to her. An example would be a trash can in the middle of the sidewalk. Not only do I focus on what’s around and in front of us, but I also need to look up for overhead obstacles (like low hanging tree branches). I alert my mom to any changes in elevation as well; curbs, steps, and uneven or broken sidewalks.

All in all, I really enjoy my life as a guide dog! It’s the best job ever! I take it very seriously and I know that my work greatly increases my mom’s independence and confidence in traveling safely.  She depends on me to help her navigate the world safely, and I depend on her for my basic care, attention and love. It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship.

I am sure you loved learning more about my job as a guide dog. I hope you stay tuned for more blogs coming this month, in celebration of National Guide Dog Month!

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