Today I read a feature story about a Paralymic athlete who is one of the first people in China to have a guide dog.
Ping Yali is a partially blind athlete who won gold in long jump at the 1984 New York Paralymics. And her canine companion is called Lucky.
She's had the golden retriever for four weeks now and is so thrilled to have this animal help her up and down the stairs, a difficult task for the blind. When she first walked down the stairs with the help of Lucky, Ping couldn't help but burst into tears.
But Beijing has many restrictions on dogs, let alone guide dogs.
Large dogs aren't allowed in certain parts of the city, and not in public areas either. She even has to get Lucky checked at Beijing's animal husbandry and veterinary bureau so that he can be recognized as a guide dog so Ping won't have to pay registration charges with the police.
Another thing is that since Lucky is one of the first guide dogs in the country, not many people understand this and so Ping can't go out in public places with Lucky unless an able-bodied person accompanies them. This defeats the purpose of encouraging Ping to be more independent.
She first found out about guide dogs during the Paralympic Games in 1984 when athletes from Europe and the United States had their own seeing eye dogs.
"It has taken more than 20 years for China to have guide dogs," Ping says.
For me it's shocking to read she is one of the first to have a guide dog in this country. I have yet to see a blind person on the street. Apparently there are some 12.3 million people in China who suffer from some kind of visual impairment.
I can't help but wonder how these people function if they don't even have white canes, let alone guide dogs. Perhaps they are hidden somewhere, never given the chance to interact with the community and achieve some kind of fulfilling life.