Stanford scholar explores life with a guide dog

Susan Krieger and Teela

There’s nothing like a human’s best friend, especially when you need a gentle guide to help you through life, as Stanford scholar SUSAN KRIEGER observes in her new book, Come, Let Me Guide You.

Krieger, a Stanford lecturer who teaches in feminist, gender and sexuality studies, said one motivation behind the book was to learn more about writing in a personal style as a way of developing broader insights about life. So, she turned to her daily life for examples of experiences that might prove fruitful to explore.

Krieger’s visual impairment is caused by birdshot retinochoroidopathy, a rare autoimmune disease that causes inflammation on the retina.

Come, Let Me Guide You reveals the nature of the deep communication between Krieger and her guide dog Teela, a golden retriever-yellow Labrador, over the 10-year span of their lives together.

“When I began this book,” Krieger said, “I was not, at first, aware of how fruitful looking at my relationship with my guide dog Teela would become for me, but in my writing, it became a way to speak about the need for external support for inner identity and about issues of intimacy and interconnectedness more generally … I felt free to explore sensitive emotional topics in a very intimate way.”

In her new work, Krieger confronts Teela’s looming retirement and their overall relationship. She believes it is important for people to better understand the valuable role of guide dogs.

“I think there is much to having a guide dog that goes beyond the obvious assistance the dog provides in leading one through the world physically, compensating for lost sight,” she said.

She noted, “I no longer have to walk through the world alone. With blindness, there can be a sense of isolation. Sharing life with a guide dog counteracts this.”

Krieger found that having a guide dog offers several benefits: assistance in mobility to compensate for lost sight, companionship to counter the aloneness that blindness brings, interconnectedness with others of a positive nature and a sense of playfulness with the dog.

The book culminates when a new guide dog, Fresco, takes over Teela’s role and both Teela and Krieger attempt to school him in their ways and protocols. Teela was featured in Krieger’s prior book, Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side.

Krieger will give a talk about her new book on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. in the Stanford Bookstore.