VOLUNTEERING FOR GUIDE DOGS UK

I have always felt that a house is not a home without a canine companion. Having grown up around wonderful collies, Rough and Smooth coated, I like my home to have a little dog noise; the pitter patter of paws, excited panting and those wagging tails and expressive ears.

Tom and I have held off on buying our own dog as we both work full time and wouldn’t be able to commit to full time doggy care.

Bridget suggested that I look into volunteering for Guide Dogs UK. She had been a volunteer a few years ago and was really passionate about the benefits and experience as a whole. As a trainee guide dog boarder you are expected to look after the dog as if it were your own for a period of 10-12 weeks. The guide dog would go to ‘work’ for the same hours as you do, get dropped off in the evenings and picked up for it’s training the next day in the morning. We would have the whole weekend to play, relax and get to know each other. It sounded too good to be true!

A huge part of this decision for me were the rewards in terms of being able to give something back to a charity that offer some incredible services and provide the opportunity to offer blind/visually impaired people a new chance at a more accessible and normal lifestyle.

If it meant that we could have a dog pal and benefit others at the same time, that was pretty win-win for me, and I didn’t need much convincing. So we signed up, asked others to complete some references for us, signed our lives away and waited for our interview.

A few months passed and we were matched up with a local trainer, T. She came over to inspect the house, run through an induction and find out more about us, she also brought with her a very sweet 4 legged trainee guide dog called Waffle.

Everything went swimmingly, and all that was left to do was wait for that phone call…

A week or so passed and T called up and said that she had a pointy eared training dog that needed to be looked after as a holiday stay. I should have mentioned before now that guide dogs come in all shapes and sizes, golden retrievers, labradors, german shepherds and even some cross bread labradoodles! Out of all the options I was a little hesitant about having a german shepherd. I had a think about why this was and I can only put it down to inexperience, being around them or getting to know one, I hadn’t ever been in that position before. To me, a german shepherd image was that of a police dog, fiercely loyal and sometimes intimidating.

Typically the first trainee guide dog offering would be a GS! Even though I was hesitant, it took very little to convince me. T sold him as a sweet, calm and soppy dog who loved cuddles and people. By this point I wanted to prove to myself that I could handle it and kept thinking back to the end result, a guide dog. They wouldn’t have chosen such a powerful and big dog to be a guide dog if he wasn’t capable of being patient, obedient and trustworthy.

The next day little Pax arrived at my door. With one floppy ear and a big smile on his face he wandered in and immediately I fell a little in love. Maybe it was his puppy-ish fluffy face and beautiful human-like eyes but I was so comfortable around him from the get-go I just had to say yes to holiday sitting!

I’m amazed at how much my perception of german shepherds has changed just from a weekend with one, but now I am much more open minded. Pax was a joy to be around, he loved human company and being by your side.

He won me over with his charm, calm temperament, excellent manners and professional walking on the lead, and I was sad to see him go (an all too familiar part of the process I’m sure!). He was a perfect introduction to trainee guide dog boarding life and as I’m typing this we are waiting for our first more permanent (10x weeks) black labrador trainee dog.

A ‘starter kit’ was dropped off this morning, including bowls, toys, a guide dog lead, and thin bedding (to go with a dog bed we purchased). We can’t wait to get into this process, I am loving volunteering for Guide Dogs more and more every minute.

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I’ll leave you with some photos of beautiful Pax, I’m so certain he will make the most excellent guide dog, companion and friend.

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