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Rainbow Fora Friend

Rainbow Fora Friend

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09/28/2013

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Misha Samarsky
RAINBOW FOR A FRIEND
Translated by Amanda Love Darragh
“The best thing a man has is his dog.”
Nicolas Toussaint Charlet

PART ONE
THE WAY HOME
CHAPTER 1

It’s a dog eat dog world… Very clever. In other words, selfish and ruthless. Oh yes, well done. You humans! I wonder what you would say if we were to start using the same phrase in reverse… Imagine the situation: I come home after a hard day at work and the dog next door asks, “So, how’s it going?” And I reply, “It’s a man eat man world out there…” What do you think of that expression, eh? I don’t think you’d like it very much. Well, same here, my dear two-legged friends. You have to agree, dogs are conclusive evidence of human ingratitude.

But never mind that, I wanted to talk about something else. This is the sort
of thing I have to put up with: people grabbing my ears, ruffling my fur, shoving
food in my muzzle… Can I say ‘face’? They shove all sorts of rubbish in my
face… Actually, I should rephrase that: it’s not rubbish, far from it! They often
offer me such tasty treats that I almost choke on my own saliva. Once I nearly
succumbed.

So, I’m standing by a pedestrian crossing with my first charge Ivan
Savelyevich (may he rest in peace), waiting for the lights to turn green. My task is
to make sure that the cars have stopped. Not just that they’ve stopped, but that
they’ve stopped in the right place. Do you think the painted lines in front of traffic
lights are there just for the sake of it? I’d like to take this opportunity to ask all you
drivers out there: please don’t cross this line. It’s alright for a sighted person, he
can just skirt round your car bonnet and continue on his way. But my charge
might not understand straight away what I want him to do: we seem to have
started crossing the road, but then his guide dog starts pulling him off to one
side. Do you see what I mean? I can’t explain it in words so I start to whine, I pull
on the lead, sometimes I even have to bark. My charge becomes flustered and
stops, trying to work out what I’m up to, going tap-tap-tap with his stick. Some
drivers all but lean out of their windows to shout, “Watch it, you moron, you’ll
scratch the car!” Why is he a moron? He has to figure out somehow what’s in
front of him. He can’t use his hand, or he might not get it back.

Basically, while he’s still working it out the traffic lights start flashing and
the cars are revving their engines, getting ready to go. Impatient drivers with their
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feet on the accelerator, that’s not such a big deal. But there are some idiots who
start sounding their horns and shouting things like, “Come on slowcoach, get a
move on!” Or whistling at me, making noises, hurrying me along. If only you
people knew how my affection for you cools at times like this. Sometimes I look
at you and think you should be ashamed of yourselves. There but for the grace of
God, and all that. Does gaining a few extra seconds at the damn traffic lights
really make you happy? People, I beg you, when you see a blind person with a
guide (one like me, I mean) please try to be as calm and quiet as possible – don’t
distract us, don’t cause any trouble for us. OK?

So anyway, we’re standing by the zebra crossing, and suddenly my right
nostril detects a wonderful smell. My stomach aches in recognition of this smell,
from the time we walked past a takeaway food stall with the sign ‘Grilled Chicken
& Kebabs’. Trying to keep my mind on the road, I sneak a look out of the corner
of my eye and spot the tastiest piece of chicken, all golden, crispy and
aromatic…I still don’t know how I managed to control myself at that moment, how
I managed to resist snatching such a delicacy. It just goes to show how much
they teach us at dog training school.

Thank you, of course, for your kindness, your strokes, all the treats… but
people, I’m at work! Don’t you understand? I’m not some pampered lap-dog or
poodle being taken for a carefree stroll by my owner, sprinkling the little posts out
of boredom. I’m working. Seriously, I’m not just out for a walk with a blind person,
I’ve got a job to do and believe me, it’s not an easy one. My task is to lead my
charge wherever he wants to go and make sure that on the way he doesn’t bang
his head, stumble, fall, or even step in a puddle. I have to warn my charge about
every obstacle and stop in front of any impediment, so that he can use his stick
to check what’s in front of him. If the obstacle sticks out into the road I veer to the
right or the left and lead my charge around it, whilst at the same time making
sure that he doesn’t walk into any low-hanging branches or anything else that
might pose a problem. My task also includes making sure my charge doesn’t
bump into other people. If we’re travelling on the bus or the tram I show him
where to get on, and then where to get off. Basically, I’ve got more than enough
to keep me occupied.

Can you even begin to imagine what it’s like, working as a guide? If you
say yes, I’m sorry but I’m going to have to bite you. Don’t be so arrogant and
hasty. Don’t say yes straight away. In order to imagine and understand what my
job is like, you would need to spend a couple of years strapped to a harness
following one of these helpless ‘masters’ around. Did you notice how I used the
word ‘masters’ in inverted commas?

Yes, some of them think they are our masters, even though they wouldn’t
be able to take a single step without us. If I (incidentally, I’m a pedigree Labrador,
they even say that I’m related to a dog belonging to a famous politician) wanted
my so-called master to bump his head on a wall, for example, or walk into a
lamp-post, a moment’s distraction would suffice, the time it takes to pee on a
bush. But I’m a professional, a specialist. I studied at a special dog training
school for two years, which is the equivalent of about ten of your human years.
You could get a couple of degrees in that time, a doctorate even. Of course I

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would never do anything as despicable as endangering my charge. My task is to
keep him safe from such perils. But it does upset me when people say ‘your
master’. Those I escort are not my masters. They are my friends. And believe
me, I am a more devoted and selfless friend than any human could ever be. You
can pull a face, smile, roll your eyes, even kick me if you like, but it won’t change
a thing. It was you who came up with the phrase, “It’s good when a dog is your
friend, but bad when your friend is a dog.” You thought it up but didn’t think it
through, even though God gave you common sense and the capacity for rational
thought. What’s so bad about your friend being a dog? Don’t worry, it’s alright… I
know what you meant. I won’t hold it against you.

Anyway, if you’d like to hear more I shall continue. I’m already five years
old – in human years I’m twice as old as my charge (Sasha is thirteen human
years old). I used to work for a blind pensioner; Ivan Savelyevich was a
wonderful person, and my friend. He sometimes even let me lie on his bed. We
would come home and after taking all my guiding paraphernalia off, feeding me
and brushing me Ivan Savelyevich would say, “Go on, Trisong, put your feet up.”

You think it’s easy wearing this harness? When I get rid of it at the end of
the day all I want to do is lie on my back with my paws in the air, have a good old
stretch, then jump about and chase a ball. Ivan Savelyevich never told me off,
even on the unfortunate occasion I broke a vase. The old chap knew I hadn’t
done it on purpose. I was mortified, though. I pressed myself against his leg and
whimpered. Ivan Savelyevich stroked me and said, “Don’t worry about it, Trisong,
it’s not worth getting upset over. Broken crockery brings good luck, as the saying
goes!”

I still don’t understand how a broken vase can bring good luck. I’ve never
heard it mentioned on television. Anyway, my Ivan Savelyevich died. He died,
and I was sent back to school. I missed him so much. I had a lump in my throat
that I just couldn’t swallow. I kept wondering who they were going to give me to
next.

I don’t know what paths, what turns of fate led him to me but somehow my
current master… I mean, charge, Sasha, found his way to our school.

If you are able to see and have never experienced any of the problems
faced by blind people, then I’d better just explain something. Before we (us
guide-dogs) are given to new masters (damn, I can’t believe you’ve got me
saying it now too)… I mean, new charges, we have to spend some time together.
To get to know one another, get used to the look and smell of one another. Mind
you, how can they get used to the look of me if they’re blind? I’m the one who
has to do the looking. They have to get used to the sound of us, the smell of us
and yes, even the feel of us – just to be on the safe side, to make sure there are
no allergies or other such nonsense. You and your human frailty. We’re far more
robust.Having said that, sometimes we also have to make a stand. Yes, indeed.

Lada, a German Shepherd from the seventh enclosure, just didn’t get on with her
new charge. The woman returned her to the school. It’s an excellent guide-dog
school, by the way, you should bear it in mind if you ever need one. Of course
I’m not there any more, but I assure you my friends won’t let you down. Do you

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