We dedicated a sculpture of a guide dog complete with harness in honor of guide and other assistance dogs on the university campus where I used to work on July 25. Over 150 people and seven assistance dogs were in attendance. The dogs ranged from pups in training to be Leader Dogs to working assistance and guide dogs to my retired guide dog. The people ranged in age from six year-olds to eighty-something folks. A state senator and a state representative came with a proclamation and two city council folk were there. Friends and colleagues from the university, book clubs I’m in, church, community groups where I volunteer and people from my neighborhood showed up. Speakers from the university’s chancellor to a recent graduate who is partnered with a mobility service dog talked about partnerships, respecting the abilities of people with disabilities and interdependence. Refreshments included bone-shaped iced sugar cookies in the university’s colors.
Interdependence was present all the way along from my finding willing partners to help fund the sculpture to various offices on the campus working together to get the statue placed and the dedication event publicized and carried out. The feel of the event was the community celebrating the gifts of all its members. Education happened. A friend emailed me that he came in the building as a gal in a wheelchair wheeled up and her service dog jumped up to push the electric button for the door opener. He’d never seen that happen. People felt the braille on the plaque as well as patting the 150-pound bronze statue of the guide dog. The dog was described as looking noble, intelligent and magnificent and the ceremony as moving. Both local television stations and the local public radio station had pieces on the statue dedication.
Now the sculpture will take up its job of educating and welcoming people to the Student Success Office on campus which houses various kinds of tutoring and services for students with disabilities. Eau Claire gave it a grand welcome.