Guide dog life

How Did You Decide Between a White Cane and a Guide Dog?

Wouldn’t everyone want a dog? I get asked these questions a lot…

Patricia Timmermans
3 min readMay 25, 2022


Guide Dog Cooper on the job waiting on train platform
Photo by Author. Guide Dog Cooper on the train platform.

Guide dog handlers have already learned to use a white cane. This skill, which is learned in Orientation and Mobility training¹, is a prerequisite for most guide dog school applications.

The decision to apply for a guide dog would be the next step.

Why wouldn’t every person with vision loss want a dog?

There are a few reasons why someone would not want a guide dog.

I love dogs, but if you’re not a dog person, it wouldn’t make sense as the guide dog is with you almost all of the time.

The responsibility of caring for a dog

Along with my guide dog Cooper’s care and maintenance, I report back to his school about his health, activity level, willingness to work, or if it seems like he’s losing interest in working.

The team effort between handler and dog

Cooper and I trained with an instructor, and before being set loose on the world, I learned to teach him new skills and deal with unexpected situations.

We get better at on-the-spot decision-making the longer we work together. But guide dogs work for about 7–9 years and it’s tough to begin again with another dog.

After my first dog quit, I nearly lost interest in getting another guide dog, but Cooper is a smart and amazing boy, I’m glad I went ahead with getting a second dog.

I am familiar with guide dog handlers who are with their third or fourth guide dog; one friend of mine is with his sixth dog. Others have experienced guide dog life with one dog, then after retiring the dog, opted to get around with just their white cane.

Life with a guide dog is not easy, but it’s very rewarding. With Cooper I have the independence to go anywhere I need to go. I haven’t taken him on a plane yet, but possibly in the…



Patricia Timmermans

My guide dog and I visit schools to raise awareness for sight loss; the kids’ questions make great stories! Plus, I love books and writing book reviews. 🇨🇦