Happy Guide Dogs Week!

Close up image of Birdie, sitting on the floor of the guide dogs training centre kitchen with mouth open and tongue sticking out. Guide dogs boarder Jill Hurds is standing just beside her, bending down and tickling her chin

As this week, 3-11 October, is Guide Dogs Awareness Week we thought we’d share one of our stories. Every year, at the Royal National College for the Blind (RNC), we are lucky enough to have lots of students and staff with Guide Dogs walking around campus every day. As well as the Guide Dog owners, Jill Hurds is our HR Officer and also volunteers as a Guide Dogs boarder. Since October 2014 Jill had been looking after a Guide Dog puppy named Birdie, in June 2015 when Birdie had to move on to puppy training it wasn’t just Jill who was in tears!

 

Read Jill’s blog below where she talks about being reuniting with Birdie when they went to surprise her at puppy training school;

This morning we set off to Guide Dogs Leamington Spa training centre to see the Guide Dog (GD) puppy, Birdie, who we boarded from October 2014 to June 2015. Her trainer is Tracey Allibon but she wasn’t going to be there today so we were met by trainer Neil. He explained that we would be taken into the town centre and met by a guide, who would take us round, following him with Birdie in harness. The guide was a young lady called Sam. Off we went, and we remained in the car whilst Neil went to get Birdie out of the van that was already there, and Sam came to sit with us and explain that she would guide us following Neil around the town, keeping a distance behind so Birdie didn’t recognise or see us. When Neil had Birdie in harness ready, he indicated we could come out and off we went. Birdie worked really well, and Sam explained the dogs are trained to take the centre line and protect the owners right shoulder from obstacles.

Sometimes Birdie went a bit close, so Neil stopped her, tapped the obstacle then turned her round and tried again. She stopped at curbs and took him to crossings until he indicated which way to go, we really couldn’t believe it was the same mad boisterous puppy that left us in June! Sam explained what was happening all the way round, through the shopping centre, in Marks and Spencer’s, down the stairs (she nearly saw us there!). Her tail was wagging all the way round! If Neil and Birdie stopped, we hung back so she wouldn’t see us; it was like being in a spy movie!!

Birdie is walking on the left, in harness, with guide dogs trainer Neil walking beside her. They have just walked up a ramp and stopped at the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then when we got back to where we had left the car, Neil took her onto the grass, took off her harness and indicated that we could go over. She spotted us coming and that’s when my tears started. Lots of cuddles for her and she knew who we were! Her previous puppy walker had visited her yesterday, so she thought this was great, having visits from her 2 families in 2 days. We went back in the car to the Centre and sat in a room with coffee made by Neil and cuddled and fussed our big clever baby girl and chatted with Neil.

Then came the time to say goodbye again. More tears from me (of course!) Thank you to Neil and Sam who made us feel very welcome and we didn’t feel like we were in the way or that they had to get back to work, a lovely experience and it made it all worthwhile. All that digging up my garden and plants, nicking socks off the radiators, stealing balls from other dogs in the field! Birdie is off to the Exeter GD team to advanced training and then she will be matched with her lucky owner. We will be contacted by her GD Mobility Instructor (GDMI) when she is settled in and told how she is doing. Good luck Birdie, we are all very proud of you!!
Read more about Jill’s role as a Guide Dog boarder

 

Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC