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Priceless contribution of guide dog trainers

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The lives of more than a dozen blind people have been transformed thanks to their remarkable guide dogs and two very special couples.

Guide dog for the blind trainers Les and Ann Bland, of Padiham, and Brierfield couple Clive and Anne Pollitt have now trained 19 dogs between them since they became volunteers a decade ago.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind charity has marked their contribution with a trophy but both couples agree that the sheer joy of training the dogs and knowing the contribution they will make in transforming a blind person’s life is reward enough.

Retired teacher Mrs Pollitt (71) said: “I’d just retired and was finding life a little bit mundane.

“I decided to search for something worthwhile to occupy myself when I saw an advert in the Burnley Express looking for guide dog trainers.

“My husband saw the same advert and without hesitation we both agreed. Funnily enough we had never had dogs before, but this felt right. We’ve both been very lucky in life and we wanted to put something back into the community.”

It is very much a team effort for the Pollitts according to Anne with Clive “doing all the hooligan stuff” like free-running and long walks while she teaches the dogs language and social skills.

Mr and Mrs Bland, who have always been dog owners, are equally effusive about their vital volunteer role.

They said: “We have trained 10 dogs and everyone of them is different. It is harder to train a guide dog than say a sniffer dog because sniffing comes naturally to a dog.

“The hardest part, though, is saying goodbye because you really get attached to them. You generally keep the puppy for between 12 and 14 months, but it becomes easier when you realise they will be going on to do a worthwhile job.”

Around 80% of guide dog puppies go on to fulfil the role with the majority of the remainder going on to other working jobs such as with the police or border agency.

All are either labradors, retrievers or a mix of the two.

Out of the nine dogs that the Pollitts have trained, only one “Victor” failed to make the grade.

Anne added: “Victor was a poser. He would stop and admire himself in the reflection of a shop window so this could have been dangerous for a blind person. He should have been a model!

“When the charity people come to collect the puppy once it has been trained I go in the bedroom and have a good cry, but then we go on to the next one. I would recommend becoming a trainer to anyone who is retired or has a lot of spare time.”

For more information visit www.guidedogs.org.uk or call 0118 983 5555.

 

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