My Guide Dog Journey So Far…
The Daisy Diary
Is it just me, or is there a sense of freedom walking down a street, no white stick, no worries, just you and your destination in mind. Well, I used to feel like that, then I got to a point in life that I needed to start using a long white stick due to my sight loss. Even just to walk down the road to ensure I didn’t end up tripping on a pavement edge or face planting a tree (which happened … A LOT). Though I knew it made me safer, I hated the stick and many times I accidentally forgot it in taxis, pubs, cafes etc. I also knew I was a fast walker but I still refused to use it properly and I’d normally end up still finding every lamppost or tree between A and Z. There had to be a better way … …. … WELL! I found it! Her name is Daisy and she is my first Guide Dog 🐶.
From a young age I’d thought about it, but I always questioned – “is a DOG what I want, or a GUIDE dog?” – this is something really important to take into account. Is it the companionship and love of a furry friend, or is it the case that you’re happy to toilet them, groom them, get up extra early, potentially sacrifice something because it’s more important that the dog is happy and comfortable? Once you have decided, that’s when you know you’re ready (though don\t get me wrong! A furry friend is definitely a bonus at the end of the day too).
I personally had a lot of barriers and challenges to my process, it wasn’t straight forward. I began the process in 2014 and I finally had Daisy in 2019, but this long of a wait isn’t always the case. So what’s the process? Here’s how it would go if everything goes smoothly,
1.Meet with a representative of guide dogs in your local area and chat about your decision so they can also check you’ve thought it through thoroughly
2.Complete all necessary assessments and forms (this is ongoing throughout the process)
3.Get put on the list
4.At a future date, get that all important call to say a dog is a potential match to your needs and lifestyle
5.The next step is very important: meeting the dog. You need to make sure that first off, it’s a logical decision not an emotional one. Does the dog walk at the right speed, will it fit in with your lifestyle, will it fit in with friends/family (if you live with others), and hopefully all the boxes will be ticked
6.Finally, the best part! You have a minimum of 5 weeks to train with your dog. To learn the rules, procedures, commands etc. and best of all: you can be as emotional about him/her as you want – Fuss them, play with them, get to know them, the bond between you and the dog is a special one. They say it takes at least a year to create a strong bond with your dog, so the earlier you start to love each other the better
Once you’ve qualified, life begins anew. My advice from my experience so far? Try everything and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you want to take them to a beach but you don’t know if the dog will be too excited? Ask your instructor. Or if you’re brave enough, take the dog along with you and friends or family, so you have that bit of extra support in case any issues do occur. But never worry, just because you might not be able to do something, or take them somewhere today, doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future. It looked like I might not be able to take Daisy to Goalball events which was a massive thing for me – BUT I took her along to a club session along with a friend and her guide dog, and together we ensured Daisy was happy and comfortable and we had absolutely no problems. And if we had, well it just would’ve given us a target to work towards. Guide dogs are amazing creatures, love them, respect them and they’ll do the same back Your dog, your life, your way.
Written By Megan Price