Barnes Discusses Life with his 'Dog Guides'

March 17, 2011

Dr. James Barnes, a Wabash College professor emeritus of history, delivered Thursday’s Chapel Talk. Barnes took the opportunity to talk about dog guides, how they’re trained, and how he works with his trained seeing-eye-dog.

“What It Means to Guide Someone” was the title of Barnes talk. And all the time at the podium Barnes’ current guide dog “Rex” was at his feet. Barnes was quick to point out that “Rex” was not the dog’s real name but he didn’t want to use that and cause any confusion should someone speak to the dog when it’s doing its job helping the Rhodes Scholar and author across campus.
Barnes talked about the history of guide dogs and how they’re trained. He is currently on his sixth service dog and noted his current best friend is now 11 years old.
He detailed the challenges of getting a dog trained from puppy to service dog and that many schools now breed their own animals for quality control.
He answered probably many people’s unasked question, ‘Why a dog instead of a cane?’
“First, I tend to walk faster with a dog and I would with a cane. A dog will take you around obstacles, it’s more efficient. “
He said to use a dog you have to love them, enjoy their company, and that you really come to depend on them “quite a deal.”
“It’s a lifetime commitment for the dog and a wonderful relationship for man and beast. And it’s fun.”
He noted his dog’s age and said he knows he may have to move one day in the near future to retire “Rex.” “But it’s wonderful to have the knowledge I can go back to the seeing-eye-dog school and get a new one.”
Watch and listen to Barnes entire Chapel Talk below:
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