Cover image for The two-in-one : walking with Smokie, walking with blindness
The two-in-one : walking with Smokie, walking with blindness
Michalko, Rod, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 227 pages ; 22 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV1780 .M53 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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When Rod Michalko's sight finally became so limited that he no longer felt safe on busy city streets or traveling alone, he began a search for a guide. The Two-in-One is his account of how his search ended with Smokie, a guide dog, and a dramatically different sense of blindness.

Few people who regularly encountered Michalko in his neighborhood shops and cafes realized that he was technically blind; like many people with physical disabilities, he had found ways of compensating for his impairment. Those who knew about his condition thought of him as a fully realized person who just happened to be blind. He thought so himself. Until Smokie changed all that.

In this often moving, always compelling meditations on his relationship with Smokie, Michalko probes into what it means to be at home with blindness. Smokie makes no judgment about Michalko's lack of sight; it simply is the condition within which they work together. Their partnership thus allows Michalko to step outside of the conventional -- and even "enlightened" -- understanding of blindness; he becomes not simply resigned to it but able to embrace it as an essential part of his being in the world. Drawing on his training as a sociologist and his experience as a disabled person, Michalko joins a still small circle of scholars who examine disability from the inside.

More rare still -- and what will resonate with most readers -- is Michalko's remarkable portrayal of Smokie; avoiding sentimentality and pathos, it is a deeply affectionate yet restrained and nuanced appreciation of his behavior and personality. From their first meeting at the dog guide training school, Smokie springs to life in these pages as a highly competent, sure-footed, take-charge, full-speed-ahead, indispensable partner. "Sighties" are always in awe watching them work; Michalko has even persuaded some of them that the Smokester can locate street addresses -- but has a little difficulty with the odd numbers! Readers of The Two-in-One can easily imagine Rod and Smokie sharing the joke as they continue on their way.

Author Notes

Rod Michalko is Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, St. Francis Xavier University.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Michalko, a sociologist, has written an insightful memoir of how, with the aid of his guide dog, Smokie, he came to fully inhabit his blindness. Although medically diagnosed as blind when he was a child, Michalko writes that, "from the point of view of my experience, I was not." When he lost the rest of his sight as an adult, he writes, he had to transform not only how he did things but also how he viewed himself. As he explores his experience of blindness, Michalko recalls how, for years, he fought against the fact of his poor sight and questions his previous assumptions about his own mobility and the trials of everyday life. He found that his confidence grew with a well-trained dog at his side. "Getting me safely where I want to go is what Smokie has done for me, and this is important. But even more important, Smokie has re-introduced me to my blindness." Michalko presents himself on many levels: the scientist considering the meanings of social behavior toward disability; the attentive pet-caretaker describing guide dog training and funny incidents that occur during his walks with Smokie; and finally, a down-to-earth intellectual who begins to forget‘after decades of near-sightlessness‘that he has a disability. He writes movingly about how, through his relationship with Smokie, he came to view blindness not just as a lack of sight but as something in itself, a condition with its own properties. In so doing, he invites us to rethink the very nature of disability. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved