When Mike Werner of Caledonia, Minnesota went blind in 2012, he had to readjust to life without sight. One of the most difficult challenges was losing his independence and having to rely on others to get around.
When it came time to get a guide dog, Werner had only one request—no Poodles. Eight months later, Polar the Standard Poodle has become a crucial element in Werner’s life.
Werner’s stipulation was born out of a misunderstanding of the breed’s temperament. The OccuPaws Guide Dog Association provided Polar free of charge; guide dogs usually cost around $20,000 to train from birth to employment age (around 2 years old.) Though guide dogs are usually Labs or German Shepherds, the hypo-allergenic Poodles also make excellent workers.
Polar has a canine sibling in a Brittany Spaniel named Zeus, and the two enjoy playing together at home. But when it’s time to get to work, Polar is all business. He helps Werner ride elevators, go for walks, play cards, even go turkey hunting with his son.
Polar engages in “intelligent disobedience” to help keep his human from danger. Werner said, “He will actually disobey me. I’ll listen for traffic, but if I don’t hear it and he sees it maybe coming around a corner, he will stop me. It’s amazing, because he’s got to be my eyes.”
It goes to show that you can’t judge a pup by his curls!