What have dogs got to do with people who don't see too well?!

What have dogs got to do with people who don't see too well?!

OWNING A GUIDE DOG IS PERHAPS NOT WHAT YOU MIGHT EXPECT... Here are few nuggets of information.

1. Whether or not a person is eligible for a guide dog depends not on his or her level of sight impairment but on how much a guide dog is likely to increase his or her mobility.

2. The charity Guide Dogs for the Blind covers all costs associated with owning a guide dog, including the cost of pet food and vet’s visits—but there is an initial nominal charge of 50p!

3. Guide dog owners are totally responsible for feeding and caring for their guide dog on a daily basis. This means feeding him (or her!) specified quantities of dog food at regular times in the morning and evening (so that the dog doesn't become overweight), ‘spending’ him (i.e. getting him to do his wees and poos in your garden and never in the street) and—most important of all!—grooming him before every outing and beyond that also once a day for around 20 minutes each time.

4. Guide dogs are trained to do things using short commands such as ‘Forward!’, ‘Butcher’s’ or ‘Bus stop’.

5. There are 4,600 guide dogs working in the UK and they can all walk in a straight line in the centre of the pavement (providing there are no obstacles), stop at kerbs and wait for the command to cross, deal with traffic and not turn corners unless instructed to do so—and (amazingly) judge height and width so that their owners don’t bump their heads or shoulders.

6. It’s not the guide dog, but its owner who gives the signal to cross a road.

7. It costs around £37,000 to train up a guide dog and his or her working life is only around 7 years.

8. The charity, Guide Dogs for the Blind, manages to breed over 1,000 labrador puppies each year, with the aim of training up more guide dogs.

If you're sight impaired and think you might benefit from having a guide dog of your own, why not live dangerously and find out more about Guide Dogs for the Blind?

Here's an extract from David's book Stepping Into The Dark. In this passage David is attending his local Guide Dog Centre for the very first time. As you'll see, he's not a happy man...

On arrival at the bus station I'm met by yet another of those nice ladies from Guide Dogs. She asks if I'd like to take her arm so she can guide me. This hasn't happened before and I'm certainly not ready for it. To say that I'm taken aback is something of an understatement. How could she possibly mistake me for a blind man?! I make another of those instant decisions that I'm so fond of: I'm not going to like this place. Once again, I force my fists into my trouser pockets and smile sweetly. "Thanks, I'll be OK," I say. By now my jaw is beginning to ache from all my insincere smiles. The lady turns out to be Lynne, who later becomes my guide dog trainer. Eventually, I develop the greatest possible respect, admiration and affection for her. But right now I just feel angry and have a sense that this woman embodies the enemy. My bottom lip is sticking out and my dummy has been thrown out of the pram... Stepping Into The Dark will give you more details of David's journey into another world, as well as plenty of reassurance, tips and advice. Full contact details for useful organisations are also provided.