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by Leah C. Dorman, DVM
Complete darkness with only my other senses to rely on. Take a step with my right foot and tell the dog “Forward!” Left foot, right foot, focus on the dog. Let her tell me where I need to walk. Trust her. Relax my arm, holding the dog loosely so I can feel her guiding me through subtle cues. Keep her close, but not so close she’ll trip me and don’t let her get too far ahead. Traffic on my left and traffic moving crosswise in front of me - an intersection must be near. Focus on the dog. The dog stops. I stop. Right foot out, feel for the bump pad. Got it! Left foot forward, but not past the right or I could end up in the street.
This was my first experience feeling what it is like to lose my sight. Thankfully, it was a brief five minutes, but it felt much longer. The dog, Dottie, is in training at Pilot Dogs, Inc. A simple act, such as walking down the street, required me to put my complete faith in man’s best friend, hoping she got me through my journey unscathed. Not knowing what was in front of me caused me to go through a whole range of emotions, that can easily be summed up as - SCARED!
As farmers, we’re accustomed to blind faith. We plant seed and have faith that it will get the right amount of rain, enough heat and enough sunlight and nutrients to grow into a beautiful field of grain. We nurture a newborn lamb in hopes that it will grow to become a champion, improve the genetics of our flock, or simply feed our family.
On the other hand, it is difficult for many of our customers (the consumer) to have this same blind faith in the way we produce food and we should NOT expect them to. More people than ever are interested in how food is grown and raised and we need to be taking every opportunity to tell them our story in the grocery store line, at the ball game, at church or wherever we are. Be open to questions about food and farming and answer questions in an open, honest and nondefensive manner. Eventhough consumer fears and concerns may not match our own, we must acknowledge their concern as real and help them understand more about what we do as farmers. Like Dottie, our ultimate goal is to build trust with our customer so that when they are scared, they too know where to turn.
Photo caption: Leah C. Dorman, DVM is the OFBF representative to the 4-H Assuring Quality Care for Animals Advisory Committee, which took a recent tour of Pilot Dogs, Inc. to learn about its program and the role of 4-H puppy raisers.
Photo credits: Lucinda Miller, OSU Extension
Leah Dorman is senior director of animal & food policy for Ohio Farm Bureau.