Blind World Magazine

Trial stalls woman's effort to get guide dog.

January 10, 2006.
Longmont Daily Times-Call - Longmont,CO,USA.

ERIE - Jamie Carley was hoping a judge would decide Monday to remove a neighbor's chow chow accused of attacking her guide dog, Racer.

She started crying when the judge set an April 10 trial date instead.

"I was angry. I was very hurt, knowing this is going to drag out another three months," said Carley, who has been blind since 1991. "I don't want to bring another (guide) dog in here until that dog is gone."

In December, Carley returned Racer to the nonprofit Guide Dogs for the Blind in California. Because of its injuries and its fear of other dogs, the 21/2-year-old yellow Labrador has been retired, she said.

Racer had been recovering from knee surgery at the California school when the chow chow, named Bear, escaped from his owners' garage Oct. 12 and bit Racer's leg, according to Erie police. Police cited Bear's owners on suspicion of having a vicious dog and allowing the dog to run loose.

After Racer visited the veterinarian Nov. 14 to have stitches removed, Bear again was loose and tried to attack Racer, police said. Carley's son, who was between the two dogs, carried Racer into the house. Bear did not actually contact Racer in that incident, police said.

In municipal court Monday, Robert Arnold, who owns Bear with his wife, pleaded not guilty to having a vicious dog and no contest to allowing the dog to run loose.

Emily Arnold later said the couple will not comment on the incidents until the court case is over.

The maximum penalty for having a vicious animal is a $1,000 fine, one year in jail or both, according to Fred Diehl, assistant to the Erie town administrator. The judge also could order the dog destroyed.

Carley knows what she wants, though.

"I want the dog removed so I can move on," she said.

Diagnosed with retinitus pigmentosa when she was 4 or 5 years old, Carley watched her eyesight deteriorate until she was 26 years old, she said. Then she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The chemotherapy left her totally blind, she said.

Without a guide dog, Carley is not comfortable leaving her house alone.

"I feel safer with a guide," she said.

Not having a dog affects Carley's independence in ways most sighted people cannot imagine.

"(A guide dog) gives her independence, total independence," said Kim Davalos, Carley's sister. "She doesn't have to rely on a sighted person."

Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds and trains service dogs at no cost to the blind people who need them, according to its Web site. After dogs are matched with handlers, the two undergo three to four weeks of training at the organization's campus. Training a guide dog costs about $72,000, according to the organization.

"Jamie's been very fortunate; she's had great dogs," Davalos said, but Racer was special.

"He picked up on things so quickly," Carley said. For example, Racer needed only one trip to Carley's mailbox - located a block away, between two other mailboxes - to take her directly there.

"He'd stop and sit in front of that center box," Carley said, while other dogs needed to repeat the trip several times to learn it. "He was just something different."

Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226, or by e-mail at

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