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Helping a Worthwhile Cause

Lena Reid from Newtownabbey has been volunteering as a ‘Puppy Walker’ with Guide Dogs since March 2010. She was inspired to get involved because she had relatives with sight problems and her husband also had some problems in 2001.

Lena said, “My husband and I are retired and volunteering gives us a new purpose to our lives. I love dogs and so volunteering as a Puppy Walker was the ideal way to help Guide Dogs.

Puppy Walking takes time, energy, patience and an awareness of the job that your puppy will be doing when he is mature. You have to be always aware that any bad habits allowed to develop may stop your puppy from qualifying, so extra time and effort has to be made in the training. Apart from the obedience training the puppy has to be exposed to all the everyday things that he may encounter with his new owner, including going shopping, to the dentist, the doctor, the hairdresser, travelling on buses and trains, traffic, joggers, cyclists, stairs, elevators, other dogs, cats, the list is extensive! Also the puppy should be confident enough to take any new things in their stride. The aim is that when the puppy is a year old it has developed into a well balanced dog ready for the guide training that he will then go through. It will also involve a lot of tears when he leaves to go for his training. You certainly get attached, but you will have to be prepared for the parting and remember the job that he will go on to do.

You will be guided and helped throughout the puppy walking process by the Puppy walker supervisor and will attend puppy workshops every two weeks.

Apart from the puppy walking which is from the puppy is about 8 weeks old to 12-15 months, therefore ongoing, I also help with fundraising, driver escort duties and hope to start giving talks and be a Sighted Guide. I will try to fulfil any requests from Guide Dogs but other tasks have to fit in with my puppy’s need. While I have him he comes first.

Through my volunteering I have met new people but most satisfying is being in a position to help a worthwhile cause. There is also great satisfaction in seeing the relationship between a Guide Dog Owner and their dog and hearing how the dog has helped them in their lives.

To date the highlight of my volunteering has been able to take my six month old puppy to the dentist, doctor and other public places where he has been quiet and well behaved.

I would advise anyone starting out in their volunteering to only take on what you have time for so that it doesn’t become stressful but stays pleasurable and you won’t get too tired or put off by it.  A little often for a long time is better than too much for a short time.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Puppy Walker or taking on any other volunteering role within Guide Dogs please contact Lindsay in  the Guide Dogs Volunteering Office on 0845 371 7771 or email volunteer@guidedogs.org.uk .