Tiny Horse Trains As Guide for Blind Muslim Woman

April 10, 2009


Source: The Associated Press


Seeing-eye dogs are a nonstarter among many Muslims who consider the animals unclean, but a horse the size of a dog just might work.

"This is a really awesome little horse," Mona Ramouni said this week as she put Cali, a 3-year-old miniature horse, through her paces and rode the bus to work with her for the first time.

Ramouni lost her sight to retinopathy — damage to the retina — that is a frequent side effect of premature birth. Until now, she has relied on her family to guide her around the Detroit suburbs where she's lived, studied and worked for all of her 28 years.

Ramouni, a proofreader of textbooks in Braille, wanted more independence, but a traditional guide dog wasn't an option. She's an observant Sunni Muslim and respects her Jordanian-born parents' aversion to having a dog in the home where she lives along with three of her six siblings.

The answer, she hopes, is Cali, short for Mexicali Rose. The former show horse stands about 2 1/2 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds.

"I want a horse that will be a partner for the next 30 or so years. ... What I really want is to be able to take her places and go places with her that neither of us ever would have been able to do without each other," Ramouni said.

While most Muslims believe dogs can violate ritual purity, horses are seen as "regal animals," says Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter.