Friday, July 22, 2016

Guide Dogs UK



Just before Christmas I got in touch with Guide Dogs UK to find out if they had any volunteering opportunities. My motivations were simple, great for my karma and hopefully cuddle lots of cute puppies in the process. 

In all seriousness, losing my sight has always been a big fear. I remember heading for my annual eye test and finding out that my eyes had deteriorated (as they had done every year for the previous five years). I asked if I was going to lose my sight completely and the optician said: ‘you’ve got a long way to go yet’. Granted, I had asked in jest, but it did get me thinking. 

My great grandmother went blind at 50 and struggled to cope. I would often hear stories about her, chatting away to herself unaware that she had locked my mum out of the house. She sounded brave and wonderful, but it was clear that losing her sight meant losing her freedom too. 

One person in the UK goes blind every minute, which is a terrifying thought. So as much as I love the idea of cuddling cute puppies, I’m more in love with the idea of giving non-sighted people their independence back. Giving them a dog isn’t just giving them a new family member, but a life companion to aid them in their daily lives. 

When I was a child, guide dogs used to upset me, simply because they were working and I was never allowed to pet them. As I grew older there was something so impressive about seeing one work. Stopping at the roadside, signalling that it was safe to walk and carefully manoeuvring their owner around obstacles. 

Even now, it still blows my mind how clever they are. 

So when I sat across the table in the pub from Tina (a full-time community fundraiser for Guide Dogs UK) I asked how. How on earth did they train the dogs to do what they do? 

The answer was simple, a huge amount of hard-work by dedicated volunteers and an even larger amount of money. 

It costs £50,000 to breed, raise, train and care for a Guide Dog throughout its entire life. It’s not just a case of teaching a dog the basics and handing it over, they’re responsible for vet bills after dog attacks (which sadly happen often considering guide dogs are chosen for being docile). They undertake annual checks on the dog to make sure it is being cared for, as well as relocate the dog if needed when it reaches retirement. It’s a hard graft. 

Second mind-blowing fact. Guide Dogs UK are not government funded, meaning 100% of the money used to run the charity comes from donations made by you and me. 

A few weeks ago I spent a day helping out at a Flag Day fundraiser (see photo below of the beautiful Flora, who I had the pleasure of babysitting). I spoke to some very lovely humans about all the great work Guide Dogs are doing, and all of them nodded in agreement. The sad truth is however, none of us will truly understand the value of their work until we’re on the receiving end. 

So I will continue to marvel at the wonders of dogs who lead the blind, while cheekily placing a link at the bottom. If you have a few pennies to spare, it’s a pretty worthy cause.




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