An update on the adventures of a very special dog and how she helps people who are blind overcome their disability.
Just over a year ago I wrote about how I am my colleagues were sponsoring Tilly, a Guide Dog puppy as she underwent her training and I write to update on her progress.
2 years ago guide puppy Tilly started the demanding journey through guide dog puppy training school. This teaches the dogs to learn all the skills required for helping their new owners, who will either have a significant visual impairment or who are totally blind, lead independent lives. From crossing the road to knowing when to disobey commands that might put their owners in danger, guide dogs provide an invaluable support in often testing and difficult times for an individual. They are truly remarkable and some veteran dogs can even navigate their owners to usual destinations such as “go to the coffee shop”!
I have really enjoyed reading about Tilly’s progress. These are just some of the things she has accomplished over the past 2 years:
1. Basic Training –From an early age Tilly was introduced to new situations and people. It is vital that guide dogs do not get distracted when on duty – something that is very difficult when you are 6 weeks old and everything is an adventure! She also needed to master the basics such as ‘sit’ and ‘stay’.
2. Guide Dog Training School – This is where it starts to get serious. Tilly began to learn all the necessary skills such as finding the kerb and sitting down before it is safe to cross the road.
3. Training harness – Tilly had to get used to wearing her harness. As well as this she improved on skills such as maintaining a central pavement position and looking out for obstacles whilst out and about. Tilly was taken to lots of different environments including Birmingham City Centre to get her used to lots of distractions.
4. Finding a Seat – Tilly was taught to rest her head on the nearest seat when given the command to show her owner where it was!
5. Qualification – After 2 years and finding the perfect match, Tilly was paired with new owner Mike who lost his sight when he was in his 50’s. Tilly gave Mike an incredible confidence and knowledge that he was being kept safe. Tilly not only offers Mike independence, but she is his firm friend and companion – they even met the Queen together.
By sponsoring a Puppy I have learnt a lot about just how much guide dogs do for their new owners and how invaluable they are to them. Losing your sight must be a terrifying experience, particularly when it is later in life, and these working dogs help their owners come to terms with this and still feel very much part of their community.
This has also assisted me in my professional work, as a Solicitor acting for patients injured during medical treatment, as it helps me to understand the different ways injuries, particularly blindness, can affect someone and the assistance that they require with everyday life.
Tilly will now fulfil a remarkable role and help change a visually impaired person’s life forever.