Thunder Dog: The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero | Chapter 10 of 34

Author: Michael Hingson | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 8968 Views | Add a Review

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DAY OF THUNDER

The bond with a dog is as lasting as
the ties of this earth can ever be
.
KONRAD LORENZ

September 11, 2001: I can feel her body quivering. It’s twelve thirty in the morning, and Roselle is afraid of the thunder. Again.

Drowsy, I prop myself up on one elbow and reach down to stroke her back, then touch her ears. I finger their velvety softness. She reaches up and noses my hand. Usually her nose feels cool and wet, but this time it feels warm. She’s panting, and her damp, foggy breath hangs in the air between us.

I hear the rhythmic breathing of Karen, my wife. Good, she’s still asleep.

Roselle’s quivering becomes shaking, and I know I’ll have to get up. I lie back for a moment and listen. I hear the wind testing the windows but nothing else yet. Roselle knows a storm is brewing. She usually gets nervous about thirty minutes before the thunder rolls in.

I yawn and rub my face, trying to wake up. My alarm is set for 5:00, and I realize that by the time I get up with Roselle, wait out the storm with her, and get her back to bed, I’m not going to get much sleep. She stands up and begins to pant again. I sit up and rub Roselle’s chin and neck, then push my feet into my slippers and stand up, grabbing my robe. Roselle rubs against my legs, happy that she won’t have to face this storm alone. Her powerful Labrador retriever tail slaps against my knees once or twice as I follow her out of the room.

We head down the hallway, partly open to the first floor, then down sixteen stairs. The wooden banister feels cooler down toward the bottom. I remember hearing yesterday on the news that this storm is a cold one, blowing down from Canada and bringing the first touch of autumn to Westfield, New Jersey.

Roselle’s nails tap rhythmically as she crosses the oak floor in the entryway, passes the elevator door, and heads down the steps to the basement. I follow, listening for differences in the air that keep me oriented to the three-dimensional floor plan of our house.

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I first began to hear my surroundings when I was four years old. Someone gave me a kiddie car that I could drive around the apartment. I quickly learned to work the pedals and tore through the rooms at high speed. One day, while out for a spin in the living room, I drove right into the coffee table. The hood of the car was just the right height to slide underneath, and my face slammed into the edge of the table. One hospital emergency room visit and three stitches in my chin later, I faced the wrath of Mom. I suppose she could have taken away the car to make sure I never had another accident, but she didn’t. “Mike, you’re going to have to do a better job of watching where you’re going,” she said. A funny thing to say to a blind kid, but what she meant was that I should listen better. So I did.

Thanks in part to Mom’s encouragement, in part to my just working at it, and in large part to the desire to avoid more trips to the emergency room, I began to pay more attention to what I could tell about my surroundings through my ears. And somehow I learned to hear the coffee table as I approached it. I could hear a change as I passed from one room to another. When I walked, I could hear a doorway. As I continued to race around in my pedal car, my confidence grew, and I learned to get beyond the need for eyesight. How many other four-year-olds can race their pedal cars around the house at high speed in the pitch dark? Not the light-dependent ones.

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As I follow Roselle down the stairs to my basement office, I begin to hear the first deep rumbles of the approaching thunderstorm. Roselle dives under my desk and begins panting again, this time faster and louder. She is one of the most easygoing dogs I’ve ever known, but thunder spooks her. It’s funny, though; Roselle has guided me during storms, and even though she doesn’t like it, her guide dog training prevails and she guides well.

No one knows for sure why some dogs are terrified of thunderstorms. It may be that they are more sensitive to drops in barometric pressure. Or perhaps, because dogs hear at much higher and lower frequencies, they are simply hearing the storm before we do. Another possibility is that dogs can smell a storm. Lightning ionizes air with the formation of ozone, which has a characteristic metallic smell.1 But more likely it has to do with changes in the static electric field that precedes a storm. An electrical engineer named Tom Critzer had a dog named Cody with a severe storm phobia much like Roselle’s, so he designed a cape with a special metallic lining that discharges the dog’s fur and shields it from the static charge buildup. I don’t have a magical thunder cape for Roselle but I do crank up the volume of a radio news program to help mask the rumbling and booming.

As we wait through the storm together in the dark, Roselle cocooned at my feet, I turn on my computer and do some work to pass the time. Between the noise of the radio, my fingers tapping on the keyboard, and the rhythmic mutter of my screen reader, Roselle stops shaking, and I can sense her body starting to relax. I don’t mind having the extra time to finish preparing for my morning meeting. We’re expecting fifty guests for four sales training sessions, and as regional sales manager, I’m in charge of the presentation.

An hour and a half later, the thunderstorm has passed, and Roselle and I head back upstairs to bed. In less than six hours, we’ll be at the World Trade Center.

We have a big day ahead.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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