Janine Prindle is an avid dog lover. She and her husband Jack, and their sons Aaron and Douglas, raised 30 guide dogs over a 15 year period. Each dog was socialized and entrusted to professional trainers around their first birthday.
Sadly, Janine became legally blind in 2007 after a 27-year struggle with retinopathy. She was no longer able to raise guide dogs, and was given one for herself – a yellow Labrador named Cranberry. On their very first walk together, Cranberry stopped Janine from walking in front of a car pulling out of a driveway.
“I have no peripheral vision, I have central vision. I can watch her as she walks away from me, I just can’t see her if she’s at my side,” said Janine. “I don’t see her unless I look down directly at her, and if I do that, I can’t see where I’m going.”
That moment on their first walk created a unique bond between the pair. Not only is Cranberry a help; she is also a friend.
“Cranberry is a guide dog, but in the house with the harness off, she’s a pet,” said Janine said. “Competing in obedience trials, that’s something we both enjoy.”
Together they have been competing for five years.
“Occasionally, I have to ask a judge if I’m headed the right way,” she said. “Cranberry has had trouble a few times, too, especially with hand signals at 45 feet. I’ll signal ‘down’ and she’ll lie down. I’ll signal her to sit up, and sometimes she decides she’s perfectly comfortable lying down and won’t get up. That’s why we practice.”
Recently the duo were competing for the title of utility dog, something only 13% of competitive dogs reach.
“We were in Auburn, near the transportation center there, and I was about to cross a street. I looked both ways and said ‘Forward,’” Janine said. “Cranberry didn’t start, and when I did, she blocked my way by standing directly in front of me. There was a bus coming and I hadn’t seen. They call that ‘intelligent disobedience.’ She wouldn’t obey if it put me in danger.”
“She did that the other day for a branch that was about forehead high on me,” she said. “I praised her, told her what a good dog she was. Then I stood up and walked right into the branch. My fault!”
“When she’s in her harness, she’s thinking about her job. People will run up and say ‘I know I shouldn’t pet your dog but I just have to!’ I don’t understand that. It breaks her concentration, and she’s trying to focus on what’s around us.”
When she’s not on duty or competing, Cranberry likes lounging around at home.
“I’ve had pets all my life, and I tried to show my first dog when I was 12,” Janine said. “There were three of us in the competition – all kids – and none of us knew what we were doing. We all got third-place ribbons.”
But it’s not all about the competitions.
“Cranberry is special. She’s my pet, and she’s my guide dog.”