your connection to The Boston Globe

A dog's guidance

Chris Kauders still remembers the day as if it were yesterday, walking out of his downtown office into a pelting rain, telling Rudy they were heading to South Station for the train ride home and Rudy getting a better idea.

Where they were supposed to turn left, Rudy tugged him right, and Kauders felt himself on an unfamiliar course, weaving amid the frenzy of Boston traffic.

''I didn't know what he was doing," Kauders said with a laugh yesterday. ''Then I heard a man say, 'Hey, mister, your dog wants you to get in the cab.' "

So Kauders got in the cab, and man and dog got home faster and drier because of it.

That's just one of a thousand stories that Kauders, who is blind, could tell of the decade he spent with a particularly amazing German shepherd guide dog named Rudy.

Chris and Rudy. Together, they traversed this city -- actually, this country -- every day in every possible way, on trains, in airplanes, and on foot. Put aside, for a moment, the logistics of it all. What Rudy really helped Chris with were the vagaries and intricacies of a full and rewarding life.

Kauders is a lawyer, a father, and a husband to a loving woman named Lee. He knows that but for Rudy's guidance, he wouldn't have achieved the same success in any of the above. Indeed, picture Kauders carrying Hannah on his shoulders to her school each morning, Rudy guiding the two of them along the way. Picture Kauders walking the family's terrier around their neighborhood, Rudy patiently walking them both. Picture Rudy lying by the side of the gymnasium pool, staring intently as his master swam his regular laps.

''He helped me raise my daughter," Kauders said. ''He helped me be a real part of my family."

And more. Rudy was so much a part of the family that Hannah would dash off letters of complaint to cab companies whose drivers wouldn't let him in their cars.

He was a playmate to the cat, a confidant to Lee. But always, he had one eye on Kauders, eagerly jumping to attention when he reached for the keys. Kauders laughed again when he recalled the nose marks Rudy left on the window of his office conference room as he constantly peered inside to make sure his master was all right.

In the beginning, it wasn't easy. Trust is built on time.

But as months became years, commands barely needed to be spoken. They zigzagged like dancers along crowded Boston streets. When Rudy developed arthritis a couple of years ago, Kauders would help him into cars, a blind man hoisting up his 80-pound guide.

Rudy was scheduled to retire to the life of the family pet this July when his replacement will arrive. The pair was in Miami on a business trip late last month when Rudy woke up in distress. He could barely walk. He was having trouble breathing. Kauders and a kindly hotel worker rushed him to a nearby veterinarian.

A specialist diagnosed the problem as bacterial pneumonia and ordered an emergency blood transfusion. Before that occurred, 11-year-old Rudy died peacefully and unexpectedly in a clinic far from home.

The following morning, a blind man named Chris Kauders tentatively stepped off a plane at Logan Airport with the help of a cane he rarely used. He had flown out of town two days before in the company of a dog who was as much a part of his life as his hands or his legs. He returned with a harness and leash tucked mournfully in his luggage and with a badly broken heart.

Some days after, Hannah would watch her father slowly climb the stairs from the commuter train to the awaiting car, that unfamiliar cane tapping the ground, and shake her head at the scene. ''When you were with Rudy," she said, ''the two of you used to glide."

From the lips of an 11-year-old, something so very true. On the streets, in life, Chris and Rudy used to glide.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Today (free)
Yesterday (free)
Past 30 days
Last 12 months
 Advanced search / Historic Archives