Guiding the way as man’s best friend

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Chloe the guide dog has given Siesta Key’s Alan Frost comfort as a second sets of eyes

By Hannah Wallace

Retiree Alan Frost and Chloe the guide dog are a regular presence in the Village on their morning strolls. While Chloe, like any dog, appreciates the exercise, she’s also the one taking Frost for a walk.

Now on the verge of turning 70, Frost has been legally blind almost half his life. A telecommunications professional originally from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Frost first began having trouble with his eyesight around the age of 35.

“I couldn’t see very well at night,” he said from his home on Siesta Key. Soon, daytime presented its own problems. A flash of sunlight would saturate and wash out his vision altogether, so he wore billed caps to shade his eyes as best as possible.

Still, “It just deteriorated over the years,” he said.

Driving became impossible, and he was forced to retire.

Siesta Key resident Alan Frost enjoys a stroll through the Village with Chloe, the guide dog he acquired. (submitted photo)

Doctors diagnosed him with a rare autoimmune condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Tunnel vision and sensitivity to bright light are among the most common symptoms. Frost handled the news with typical Midwestern practicality, chalking it up to random misfortune. “It’s a genetic condition,” he explained. “Bad luck.”

He adapted, and his wife helped him, but mobility remained a challenge. Falling bothered him the most.

Then, a year ago, came Chloe. Frost’s wife had applied for a dog on his behalf, and Chloe came to them through Palmetto’s Southeastern Guide Dogs. This time, Frost was the recipient of good fortune, as he saw it: “Dumb luck.”

Chloe’s presence has made a huge difference in Frost’s confidence, removing a lot of fear from his travels.

“If you take a fall it’s very painful,” he said. “If you have a dog, you don’t do that so much.”

Before their meeting, while Chloe was still being raised as a guide dog, Frost, too, had to prepare for their relationship. Fortunately, he said, “I’ve been a dog person since I was a child. I was very comfortable around dogs.”

Southeastern Guide Dogs representatives came to the couple’s house to make sure it would make a suitable environment for a dog. And Frost embarked on the organization’s extensive human training — first learning rudimentary dog handling, and then the specific mechanisms of the human/guide dog relationship. He underwent an “intense” three-week training program on the organization’s campus.

Along the way, he gained new appreciation for the work that Southeastern Guide Dogs does.

“The quality of the dog-human teams that come out of Southeastern is superior to anything else I’ve seen,” he said. “These people are very good.”

Lastly, Frost has been able to learn Chloe’s individual personality. For instance, he said, Chloe enjoys their morning walks along the shoreline, even though she’s afraid of the water and doesn’t want to get her toes wet. Ultimately Frost considers that trait a positive for her job performance.

“The dog is a very big help as far as reducing my ability to walk off piers,” he deadpanned.

At this point in his life, Frost is also looking out for Chloe’s future. He wants to ensure she’s still a happy, healthy and well-trained guide dog for the other vision-impaired people who may inherit her down the line. She doesn’t “belong” to him, he argued. Instead, Frost considers his relationship with Chloe to be an act of service for her future humans.

“There’s ownership and then there’s stewardship,” he said. “My gig is to get her to her next gig.”

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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