The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the east London borough of Newham is offering local residents a unique opportunity to bring some puppy love into their lives by helping train the next generation of guide dogs (seeing-eye dogs), the Newham Mag reports.
The charity, which helps procure and train up dogs to assist blind and partially-sighted people in their day-to-day lives, is currently appealing for Newham residents to help give a temporary home to guide dog puppies. This volunteering role, known as Puppy Walking, also involves training and socialising of the young dogs, so as to prepare them for new careers living in owners’ homes. They can also learn to be comfortable around people and carrying out activities like crossing the road. Puppy Walking enables the puppy to be socially well behaved, affectionate and responsive to their future owner’s needs.
Would-be Puppy Walkers are needed to provide full-time care and education to a puppy from the ages of seven weeks to between twelve and fourteen months, when they will be returned to the Guide Dogs Association for advanced training to graduate as fully fledged guide dogs.
One resident from West Ham, Jackie Palmer, who already is an experienced Puppy Walking volunteer, told the magazine: “I have enjoyed every minute with my guide dog puppy. He is a joy to have and the kids love him. I have met so many people since becoming a Puppy Walker and I have seen and heard first-hand the benefits a trained guide has in the life of a visually impaired person”. Ms Palmer is looking after a black Golden Retriever puppy named Wolf.
Looking after a future guide dog requires a lot of time, commitment and love from volunteers and their families, but will result in a very special animal indeed, according to the Guide Dogs Association website. The charity advises volunteers to care for the puppy in much the same way as they would care for a young child, giving the puppy lots of love, affection and attention. Volunteers will need to be at least 18 years of age, due to the responsibility required. They must be able to commit the time needed to look after a puppy, with very young trainee guide dogs needing up to three hours of full-time care a day. Volunteers must also have suitable space in their homes including provision for a special hard-surfaced or gravelled toilet area, and be willing to take the puppy outside around busy places on a regular basis.
If you live in the United Kingdom, and you have what it takes to be a Puppy Walker, you can call the Guide Dogs hotline on 0845 371 7771. Alternatively email the charity at volunteer @ guidedogs.org.uk, visit the Puppy Walking information pages online at www.guidedogs.org.uk/puppywalking or visit the links listed under ‘Sources’ below this article.
“Help train guide dogs” – The Newham Mag <Issue 313>, Newham Council (10 April 2015)
“Puppy walkers” – Guide Dogs, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/volunteering/what-can-i-do/puppy-walkers/#.VSpY3_nF8rU
“Essential criteria for puppy walking” – Guide Dogs, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/supportus/volunteering/what-can-i-do/puppy-walkers/essential-criteria-for-puppy-walking#.VSpag_nF8rU
“File:Golden Retriever puppy 2010.jpg” – Mtlchung, Wikimedia Commons (5 February 2010) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Golden_Retriever_puppy_2010.jpg