FOLLOWING on from the huge success of the latest series of ITV’s Me and My Guide Dog, which featured the puppies being born and trained at the Guide Dogs Breeding Centre and training HQ in Leamington, The Observer has teamed up with puppy walkers Martin and Nicky Richards to bring you an insight into just what goes in to the puppy walking phase of a Guide Dog’s life.
A lot happens to a Guide Dog from birth to its working life as the eyes for a partially sighted or blind person.
Martin and Nicky are stalwart Guide Dog puppy walkers.
And in the coming months we will be bringing you their story of just what it takes to prepare a Guide Dog puppy for its life of vital service.
Guide Dog puppy Eddie has also agreed to help out.
Eddie – A Guide Dog Puppy’s Story – Part 1
My wife and I are puppy walkers with Guide Dogs.
Our task is to socialise our puppies bringing them up in a loving family environment so that when they start working for a guide dog owner they will be well adapted to a home life.
We do a lot of the basic training with our puppies, getting them to respond to the commands sit, down, wait, stay, no, NO!, and come as well as lead work and recall when they are on free runs.
Like most volunteers we do many roles for Guide Dogs – boarding pups, fundraising, speaking and we are also trained sighted guides.
A couple of years ago I was told that Guide Dogs runs the whole of its programme with about 1,000 staff and 11,000 volunteers, totally funded from donations from the public.
Our current puppy Eddie is 11 months old.
What we will do in a series of articles is detail his life and progress for you.
Eddie is well known around Solihull as he is often out collecting, and he has been on many school visits.
Our previous three puppies are all now working guide dogs so Eddie has some big paws to fill.
Eddie, like all of our previous pups, is male and is a cross Labrador/Golden Retriever.
Over half of all the guide dogs you see are this cross breed – it obviously works well.
Our first puppy Sonny lives quite close to us in Birmingham so we get to see him regularly.
Our second and third pups, Fraser and Scooby are both working in Cornwall and doing well with their Guide Dog owners.
Fraser was named by staff at House of Fraser Solihull as they kindly raised £5,000 for Guide Dogs.
Scooby was a sponsor puppy on the Guide Dog website where people can sponsor a puppy for as little as £1 a week for 2 years.
The thing we hear most from people is that they couldn’t be puppy walkers because of having to give up the puppy.
There is no easy way to get over this, but you do go into the process knowing that the day will come when your pup will head off into his or her new life.
When your puppy goes you will get to see them again in training and then if they become guide dogs their owner may choose to contact you.
Loosing your pup is hard but you know they are off to do something wonderful and if you want you get to start all over with a new pup leaving you no time to grieve.
In the next article we will describe Eddie’s early days and what it is like looking after looking after a Guide Dog puppy.
The Twitter account for our Solihull fundraising branch is @SoliGuideDog if you would like to follow us.
Martin, Nicky and Eddie