Hassling any dog minding its business seems like unhinged behavior, but hassling a guide dog for the blind would be exceptionally absurd. And yet that’s exactly what guide dog Kika and her human Dr. Amit Patel captured on video in mid February 2022.
Doctor and disability advocate Amit Patel lost his sight in 2013 and received Kika, a white Labrador, as a guide dog in 2015. Since then, the two have become close companions as they have navigated the busy London Underground and the even more chaotic birth of two kids.
But while Dr. Patel’s partnership with Kika grows stronger every day, it has never been easy out in public. It was back in 2017 when Dr. Patel fitted Kika’s harness with a GoPro, a sort of doggie dash cam, to collect evidence they might need to lodge a formal complaint after several dangerous incidents of which Dr. Patel couldn’t see. One such incident occured when a London train station layout was altered, which would be confusing even for those with sight, but is an almost new environment entirely for the blind.
“I asked for help and no one came,” Patel recounted to BBC . “The video shows lots of staff standing around me and this one guy looking over many times. Eventually when the staff member actually came to me the first thing he said was ‘sorry I didn’t see you’ and that really bugged me. He wouldn’t say that to someone who wasn’t visually impaired.”
In the footage shared to social media, Dr. Patel is seen standing to the right on an escalator with Kika on his left. Another man, seen standing behind Kika, is heard expressing extreme frustration to Dr. Patel for Kika blocking his path.
“You’re worse than a dog. If you don’t understand the human being… I just want to catch the train.”
“Yes, but I can’t move.” Amit Patel is heard explaining. “She’s a guide dog I can’t physically move [her]. She’s not going to move.”
Which is true. Service dogs are trained from puppyhood to not only guide their human, but also to prevent their human from walking into danger.
Dr. Patel in an article with iNews March 2020 described this aspect of guide dog work through one his first nights with Kika, when they were still getting to know each other. They were sharing a hotel room, already unfamiliar territory, when Dr. Patel discovered Kika had laid down directly across the bathroom door, blocking his entrance.
“I tried to get by, but she wasn’t having it. It took me a good 20 minutes to move her out of the way. The water pipe in the bathroom had burst and there was water all over the floor. I would have taken a step and fell, because there was no handrail. She stopped me going in, and that changed things for me.”
Additionally, riding an escalator isn’t a common training for guide dogs (many public transport companies actually advise taking guide dogs via elevator over an escalator when possible) but was necessary for Dr. Patel and his travel needs. Speaking with BBC News, Amit Patel explained,
“Kika is trained specifically to get to an escalator, to stop, and to wait for the command ‘forward’ so she’ll jump on, that way she doesn’t catch her paws, and for me to hold onto the rail. And she will STAY THERE until it’s start to level out, then she’ll walk and jump off the end.”
This escalator incident wasn’t the first and unfortunately won’t be the last. It’s important to remember and remind that service dogs are working dogs. Whatever they’re doing and wherever they are is their job and that job is keeping their human safe. Impeding a service dog’s work is threatening the safety of another human being, full stop.
Have some patience and let dogs work! Honestly, in this economy, it’s commendable a dog has a job at all.