Things people ask over coffee: guide dogs and vision loss — Part III

I had no idea how much Cooper would change my life, for the better!

Patricia Timmermans
5 min readJan 28, 2022


People talk to me a lot when we’re out, usually when I’m sitting down with a coffee. It’s all good though – vision loss awareness is important to me, and Cooper just being himself, invites some good conversations.

These are a few questions I’m asked over coffee:

  1. How do you get groceries?

At Pet Valu, the one store that puts him to the test. But he knows he’ll get a new bag of treats, so he’s good about resisting the urge to sniff things.

Guide dog Cooper sitting in the aisle of the pet store
Photo credit: the author. Cooper sitting in the aisle at Pet Valu. He’s a good boy for not sniffing the food.

I have options when shopping: I can ask for assistance at customer service, or Cooper will walk beside the cart. He waits by the cart when I take time to make decisions.

Trips to Costco: I used to dread them, the chaos was my nightmare. But with a guide dog, people don’t walk into me, and I don’t walk into people. It’s awesome!

My husband walks behind us with the cart and gives directions, left, right, or wait.

2. How long does it take to train a guide dog?

It takes two years to train a guide dog. When they’re little, their puppy raisers teach house manners and get them comfortable wearing a cloth vest. They get used to the mall and stores in their new little vests, it’s super cute.

A CNIB future guide dog in training, with his puppy raiser
Photo credit: the author. future CNIB guide dog with his puppy raiser.

At 18 months, they begin working with a professional instructor. I met Cooper when he was two and we trained together until our instructor was confident that the world was ready for us 😎🐕‍🦺

3. How can I help a blind person?

It’s safe to assume that a person with a white cane or guide dog has been getting around for some time.

But if they look lost, just ask, “Do you need directions somewhere?” or, “it’s ok to cross the street now,” or “wait a sec, don’t cross the street yet.” I always appreciate help like this at street crossings.



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. 🇨🇦