A local family who took on the task of raising and training up a guide dog during lockdown describe their “rewarding” experience.
Richard Hanby, who works for Drax Power Station and is a member of the Beaver Sailing Club in Sykehouse, got the new Golden Retriever pup - Beauty - from the charity Guide Dogs. The family made the decision to join the Guide Dog Puppy Raisers scheme after being made to work from home when lockdown hit in 2020. The scheme works by allocating pups to families or individuals for 12 to 16 months, who then train them up with advice and guidance from Guide Dog experts. If the dogs pass their training at the end of their time with the temporary trainers, they get allocated to someone visually impaired.
Richard said: “It’s a very rewarding experience and it’s given the family something to focus on during the lockdowns.” Beauty became part of the family when she was only seven and a half weeks old, and she turned 12 months old last week. The pooch will be fully trained by February 2022, ready to be assessed for her suitability as a guide dog. Those that don’t pass are often used instead as sniffer dogs. Richard said: “This is the first dog we’ve ever owned and the kids and wife love it, but it will be sad to see her go sometime in February.” Being a ‘puppy raiser’ means being responsible for caring for the basic needs of a guide dog, teaching them basic demands and encouraging them to be calm, confident and focused. “They should also be able to judge distances like how wide a passage or doorway is, and they have to know where local shops are”, Richard explained. Guide Dogs relies heavily on volunteers to help improve the lives of people with sight loss, and puppy raisers are a vital link in the chain of dog socialisation and training. Linda Conway, volunteering coordinator at Guide Dogs, said: “Being a ‘puppy raiser’ is such a rewarding role - seeing a puppy develop into a potential guide dog, who will transform the life of someone with a visual impairment. “Volunteers will get the satisfaction that you have had a pivotal role in providing guide dogs that enable people with sight loss to enjoy the same freedom as everyone else”, she added. Beauty will complete her training early next year and, if she passes, will go on to become a trusted friend and valuable part of someone’s life. Good luck Beauty. Guide Dogs are always looking for new trainers - for more information, you can visit www.guidedogs.org.uk.
ABOVE: Richard, Rachael, Olivia and Sophia with Beauty as a new puppy. (02-12-302 SU)