“The Dog Who Comes to Church,” Friend, Feb. 2001, 13
Our cocker spaniels, Ann and Dan, and our neighbor’s white, fluffy, lap dog, Pepper, are not welcome to come inside the church building. But Sister Moulder’s yellow Labrador, Buddy, has permission from the Bishop to come in and make himself at home.
Buddy works for Sister Ellen Moulder. He is her guide dog. She needs his help because she is mostly blind. Buddy uses his eyes to guide her to classes and to sacrament meeting. He also uses his sensitive nose to memorize the way to familiar places she needs to go to. Some of us kids think of him as “Supernose Dog.”
Sister Moulder went to a training center in New York State for more than three weeks. She and Buddy learned there how to get along together. On their first Sunday together in our ward, Sister Moulder taught us how to help Buddy adjust to his new home and friends. Did you know that it helps Buddy if we do not look in his eyes, pat his head, or rub his ears? When he wears his working harness, he must not be distracted. If we invite him to play, we will be undoing the good training he has been given. We help him best by ignoring him. We must never call him by name or offer him food. He should take commands and food only from Sister Moulder. She takes good care of Buddy, and she trains him to behave nicely around people. He takes good care of her, showing her the way through the chapel door, down the hall, and into the Relief Society room.
Lying quietly beside Sister Moulder’s feet, Buddy almost seems to be listening during lessons. He is alert when people come too close or when something seems a threat to Sister Moulder. He leads her safely through crowds in the hallways.
Buddy is a large dog—up to my waist, or up to the knees of a grown-up person. Once, we were sitting on the front row in sacrament meeting. Buddy lay by Sister Moulder’s feet—right on top of my left foot. I was afraid the dog would bark if I disturbed him by moving my foot, so he lay on my foot all through the meeting. He is heavy.
When Buddy came to Primary Activity Day, he seemed to enjoy watching us perform during talent time. He liked it when we played the guitar or violin or piano. But Sister Moulder did not bring him into the room where we frosted cookies. It would have been a big temptation for us to hand him one—and a bigger temptation for him to eat it!
During a stake Relief Society conference, Buddy got into some trouble. There were many people he didn’t know, and he was snuffing like mad to sort them out. Suddenly he began howling and barking, even when Sister Moulder commanded him to be quiet. The man in charge of the microphones said that it was probably because of the high-pitched notes that dogs can hear, which were coming from the hearing aids of some older sisters.
That day, priesthood brethren helped serve dinner to hundreds of sisters by rushing up and down the aisles with wheeled carts. One server parked his cart and unloaded all the plates he could carry, leaving just one on the bottom shelf. Sniffing the food, Buddy must have thought that the last plate was for him. He was tempted, but Sister Moulder told him to “leave it,” and he did.
Not many dogs get to come to church, but Buddy does. We would miss him if he and Sister Moulder were not there. He learns from us, but I think we learn more from him. He is our good Buddy.
Without the owner’s permission, don’t touch, talk to, feed, or otherwise distract the dog. Do allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of its owner.
Don’t treat the dog as a pet. Do give it the respect of a working dog.
Don’t give the dog commands. Do allow its owner to do so.
Don’t try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or its owner. Do assist its owner upon request.
Don’t walk on the dog’s left side; he may become distracted or confused. Do walk on the owner’s right side, but stay a few paces behind.
Don’t attempt to grab or steer the owner while the dog is guiding him/her or attempt to hold the dog’s harness. Do ask if the owner needs your assistance and, if so, offer your left arm.
Don’t expect too much too soon. It takes six months to a year for the owner and dog to become a working team.
Don’t give the dog table scraps. Do respect the master’s need to give the dog a balanced diet and to maintain its good habits.
Don’t allow your pets to challenge or intimidate a guide dog. Do allow them to meet when they can be carefully supervised.
Don’t allow the dog on your furniture or anywhere else not agreed upon by the family and its owner. Do ask its owner to correct any wrong behavior or trespassing.