Treasure Valley guide dog takes "paws" at snowy city sidewalks

Posted at 10:44 PM, Jan 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-14 00:56:08-05

This winter has been hard on pretty much everyone in the Treasure Valley.

"Winter has been tough this year," Nampa resident Nicole Mandley says. 

That is especially true for anyone trying to get around outside.

"We definitely got a lot more snow and ice and everything else," Mandley says.

City snow removal crews throughout the valley have had their hands full.

"Unfortunately, they're just pushing all the that snow on the sidewalks," Mandley says.

While slushy, slippery sidewalks are an inconvenience for most, for some, they're an impossibility. 

Mandley is legally blind. 

"I can't see anything out of my right eye and my left eye, I can see shapes and colors and movement and shadows... but it's still pretty blurry," she says.

Mandley has had her guide dog, Nyla, for three years. Nyla does her best to navigate Mandly through the snow and ice, but when it comes to the sidewalk just outside Mandley's apartment complex, Nyla comes to a dead halt.

It's not a lack of training that keeps Nyla from leading Mandley down the icy path.

"Guide dogs are taught something called 'intelligent disobedience' which is where a service animal is trained to ignore their handler's command if the dog feels it is unsafe to continue," Mandley says.

Mandley says if Nyla can't guide her where she needs to go, she's out of luck.

"There have been times where we're either forced to walk in the street, or, sometimes, we have to turn around and come home because she refuses to walk on the choppy, messy sidewalks because it's not safe," she says.

So while most are making due with what winter has thrown their way, Mandley thinks the cities could be doing more for those with different needs.

"It's really frustrating for me and my guide dog because we feel like we cant be as independent as we usually are," she says. "We try, but it's definitely been really hard feeling trapped in your own home."