I became an Official Speaker for Guide Dogs for the Blind, just after I qualified with my first guide dog Sarge in 2001. I have been invited to speak in schools, at youth group meetings, luncheon clubs and support groups. I became Guide Dogs’ poster girl in 2002 and my photo appeared on every bus stop, train station and supermarket wall in the country, promoting the unique partnership between owner and dog.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is a charity that receives no government funding at all, yet we could not imagine our society where visually impaired people could not have access to a guide dog. We are a nation of animal lovers and assistance dogs in particular are held in very high esteem with the incredible work they do for their owners. I can't imagine my life without my guide dog Clarke, who is sadly reaching retirement age and I do whatever I can do help this incredibly valuable charity continue with its work.
Guide Dogs for the Blind mostly breed their own puppies from healthy dogs who have shown aptitude in all sorts of ways in order to produce high quality, trainable dogs. I've owned pet dogs alongside my guide dogs and it would be inconceivable to even attempt the training a guide dog is capable of handling. Mind you, I have owned a particularly scatty Irish Setter and an equally dotty Dobermann, so I shouldn't complain.
The last figures I was given for the overall cost of a fully trained guide dog over his or her lifetime is in excess of £70K and the charity is always looking for new ways to raise money in an increasingly competitive market. If you feel you can support Guide Dogs for the Blind, please visit their website at www.guidedogs.or.uk. Your help will be very warmly received.