Meet a Real UVic Student: Georgia and Grainger
There’s a varied cast of characters you will find in every class – the keeners in the front row who answer all the questions, the ones who didn’t get enough sleep last night and forcing themselves to stay awake, and the folks who are just trying to get through the class with a decent grade. But every once in a while you get an unexpected cast member in your class – and if you’re lucky, it might be Grainger.
She’s a fourth-year psychology student here at UVic. She is just like every other student in most respects, but there is one unique thing about Georgia – wherever she is, there is also Grainger, her Seeing Eye Dog.
Georgia and Grainger can often be seen cruising around campus, hanging out at Bibliocafé, or chilling in residence – they’re a fixture of campus life.
A Seeing Eye Dog
In addition to being a hard-working student and an awesome community leader in residence, Georgia has made it her mission to make sure that everyone is educated about guide dogs in BC.
Georgia needs help to get around, so Grainger is there to help her navigate without bumping into things – he keeps her safe. Georgia says that Grainger is her eyes, and without him she can’t move safely or with any confidence.
Grainger is supremely well-trained – he was bred and trained at The Seeing Eye in New Jersey, which is the oldest guide-dog school in the world. And he is really good at his job. Grainger pulls Georgia forward and helps her avoid obstacles in the way.
“Grainger is like an extension of me – in that way it’s necessary that I have him by my side,” explains Georgia. Because of that, Grainger goes everywhere Georgia goes (with few exceptions…he never goes to the bar because, as Georgia says, you shouldn’t drink and drive!).
No Flirting Allowed
There are lots of misconceptions about people who use guide dogs, and Georgia is keen to set the record straight.
One of the most important things to know about dogs like Grainger is that they are working – hard. Grainger had to learn a lot before becoming a guide dog, and when he’s working it’s important that he’s not distracted. “When he’s wearing his harness, there’s no touching, no flirting, no telling him he’s cute – we know he’s cute!” Georgia jokes.
Seriously, though, it’s important that Grainger can do his job without too many distractions. Georgia’s advice for people who meet a working dog is to “ignore him – I know it’s tough!”
When Grainger isn’t working, that’s his time to goof off and be a puppy, and he loves it! He’s a very social dog, and loves pats and cuddles, and that’s when it’s ok to ask to pet him.
Another misconception about Grainger is that he’s optional, that Georgia could get along just as well by using a white cane. Georgia disagrees. “Using a cane vs. a guide dog is a personal preference, but I prefer Grainger,” she explains, “A cane finds obstacles, a dog avoids them.”
Georgia also finds Grainger to be less stigmatizing than a cane. “A lot of people like dogs, so having a dog is a really good conversation piece, because people want to know more about him. With a cane I found people were dodging out of my way and not making eye contact which was sad.” She also sees the social benefits of Grainger: “everybody loves me for my dog – if I got rid of the dog, I’d have no friends!”
Since Grainger goes everywhere Georgia goes, that means he goes to class with her. This can sometimes have comical side-effects.
“He’s really good at staying still – most of the time,” says Georgia. “He’s usually just sleeps, but sometimes he snores or has dreams and barks in them – it’s all really fun!”
Just like the rest of us, Grainger tends to be more reluctant to head to those 8:30am classes, because even when he’s just lying down, he is still working!
His Very Own Facebook Page
Georgia knows that when Grainger is with her, it makes her recognizable, and she uses this to her full advantage. “Since so many people know Grainger is working, he’s a symbol, so people know I can’t see well.”
But it’s not just about letting people know that she can’t see well – Georgia wants to educate the world about guide dogs! To accomplish this, she has started a Facebook page where you can see the world from Grainger’s point of view. It’s a great peek into the life of a Seeing Eye Dog, and to get the answers to all the questions you were afraid to ask about guide dogs!
If you’re a student with a disability UVic has a variety resources to help you achieve your academic goals. Visit the Centre for Accessible Learning’s website to learn more.
Georgia and Grainger are just one example of how UVic is a diverse campus, with lots of different people, and new things to discover every day!