A walk down a sidewalk in San Rafael, California nearly turned into a tragedy for a dog and two employees from Guide Dogs for the Blind when a car came careening towards the trio. Thanks to an observant guide dog, the employees and the dog are safe.
Todd Jurek, a training supervisor for Guide Dogs for the Blind, was walking with apprentice instructor Danielle Alvarado with 18-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, O’Neil. Alvarado was blindfolded to allow Jurek to assess O’Neil’s skills as a guide dog.
Suddenly, O’Neil vigilantly jerked his head to look behind them. Jurek turned to see what had caught the focused dog’s attention, and saw a backwards-moving car heading straight toward them at high speed. Just in the nick of time, Jurek pulled Alvarado and O’Neil out of the way.
“It was just an unbelievable sight to see something going backwards, barreling down the sidewalk,” Jurek said. “He probably heard the commotion before the window popped. My thought was, is this car going to continue around the corner and are its debris going to fly at us?”
The car continued across the street, narrowly avoiding another car at the intersection. Jurek called the incident a “one-in-a-million event” that was handled well by both O’Neil and Alvarado; O’Neil turned back around to help Alvarado move out of the way, and she did not let go of his leash.
“You can’t train a dog for such a dramatic incident,” he said.
Miraculously, no one was injured. The driver of the car, a 93-year-old woman, was not suspected to have been intoxicated or to have had a medical condition that caused the accident. She likely accidentally put the car in reverse instead of drive, but it does cause many to speculate why anyone would be flooring it out of a parking space regardless of the direction.
O’Neil had additional training and testing the following day to make sure he was not traumatized by what happened. He is in the process of completing his final testing, and will soon be placed with a sight-impaired client in the next few weeks.