A Message from the Charity:
We would like to give a big “Thank you” to everyone involved in WMTC for choosing to support The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association again this year. We rely on donations and are extremely grateful for all the money that you raise.
We are very disappointed that the “ Meet the Show “ session could not go ahead and that we did not have the opportunity to talk to you in person so we could introduce you to one of our wonderful Life changing Guide dogs together with some of the lovely puppies in training.
The Guide Dog owner would have told you how her Guide Dog has changed her life, giving her the freedom to go where she wants independently. She would have told you some funny stories about life with a Guide dog and how the dog even saved her life by pulling her back away from the path of an oncoming silent electric car. The volunteer puppy walkers, who do the early training, look after the puppies in their homes. The puppies come to them from the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre at 7 weeks old and stay for about a year when they go on to full time professional training. During the puppy walking time they have a huge amount to learn. The puppy walkers would have told you about the stages of learning that the puppies go through and how lively and naughty they can be in their early life. The puppies gradually learn to be well behaved and obedient but they always have lots of play time and free runs when they are not working.
The professional training stage lasts about 8 months and is done at one of the training centres such as Birmingham or Leamington. The dogs are taught to wear the harness and work towards guiding their owner, avoiding obstacles, judging width of gaps so that there is room for them and their owner, looking for overhanging branches etc and coping with situations such as blocked pavements. The training also includes finding the doors on trains and buses and leading their owner through crowds. If all goes well, they then progress to being matched with a potential owner. The matching process is a bit like blind dates in that the characteristics of the dog are matched with a person who needs them. All sorts of aspects are taken into consideration, like size of dog, temperament, the amount of work that would be expected and speed of walking. Once a successful match is made, the dog and new owner train together to become proficient and confident as a partnership. When the supervisors are satisfied that this has been achieved, the dog qualifies as a Guide dog and would usually work for about 7 years depending on the work load and other factors.
The charity offers life-changing services for the 360,000 people who are registered blind or partially sighted, and the two million people in the UK living with sight loss. Besides the Guide Dogs, these services include ones for children, young people and their families, education support, mobility training, buddy dogs, assistive technology, white cane training and MyGuide, a service in which trained sighted guides lead people with sight loss to places they want to go.
Guide Dogs aims for a society in which people who are blind or partially sighted enjoy freedom of movement and can live actively and independently. Their goal is to increase the number of people with sight loss who they support, from 200,000 to 500,000 by 2023. Your donations will help to achieve this and are appreciated greatly. Hopefully we will be able to visit you with the dogs in the autumn and say “Thank you” in person.