This is the story of Orient, the German Shepherd who guided the blind hiker of the Appalachian Trail on his trek from Georgia to Maine.
In 1991, Bill Irwin hiked the entire 2167 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Many people do. But Bill remains the first and only completely blind hiker to have done so. His story is told in the book, Blind Courage, but the story of his dog, Orient, has been written for children. It is called Orient, Hero Dog Guide of the Appalachian Trail.
Not only is the story interesting and true, but it is educational. You meet Orient as a puppy who was being raised by a girl named Jenny who was caring for him until he was ready to become a working dog. When he is old enough, Orient has to leave Jenny and go to school. Then Orient meets Bill Irwin (who lost his sight as an adult), and when Bill decided to hike the Appalachian Trail, Orient, of course, will go too.
Most of the book is devoted to how Orient helps Bill on the trail, some of their adventures, and how people reacted to them.
Bill Irwin makes no secret of his Christian faith, and although this is not a main theme of the book it is included in an understated way that I don’t find offensive.
The story ends at the end of Bill’s hike.
The illustrations are by Erin Mauterer, and really help make the book. They are fairly realistic watercolors with lots of color and action.
This is a great book for kids who love to hike, kids who love dogs, and for those who want to have an introduction to the life of a working dog. I think that the text could be a little more creative, but there is nothing wrong with any of it. I had the chance to hear Bill Irwin speak in 1995, and to meet Orient, who was getting old by then. It was an unforgettable experience.
Children I know as young as 3 have enjoyed hearing this book. The reading level is probably 3rd grade, although I’m a little out of touch on this topic.
Can be purchased at BillIrwin.com