As a child in fifties Great Britain I only had a vague knowledge of what a guide dog for the blind was. At school and at home children would save the foil tops from milk bottles "for a blind dog". Firstly I thought that we were saving up for a dog that was blind and, even when the truth was explained to me, I could not understand just how these foil lids could provide a guide dog.
The top and the bottom of the matter is that training a guide dog for a blind person takes time, effort and, as usual, money. Despite the worthiness of guide dogs to this day funding is never enough.
The guide dog concept dates back to the First World War
During this conflict, the Great War, which ran from 1914 until 1918 dogs in Germany were trained to lead soldiers who had been blinded. Dogs are such willing learners and far more capable than many people give them credit for.
Both the trainers and the animals deserve huge thanks for the work that has been done since those early days.
The Blind Association Guide Dogs group was founded in 1934. From the late 1920's in America, and the early thirties, in the United Kingdom, research into the dog experiences of Germany was taking place.
By 1931 the UK had four fully trained guide dogs, for the blind; the guide dogs for the blind association was well underway.
The Guide Dog service in the UK has always been a charitable service and getting the appropriate dogs was costly in the beginning. A volunteer program was created so that volunteers could walk young dogs in order for the animal to get the feel of the guide dog life ahead. Soon after a breeding program was started to ensure that there were always suitable dogs available.
Guide dogs in the UK tend to be Labradors.
These days guide dogs for the blind does not accept collections of milk bottle foil tops to raise funds. I guess with modern milk bottles and cartons these would be in short supply anyway but instead you can donate used stamps, mobile phones and ink-jet cartridges.
The cost of training a guide dog for the blind has risen like every other cost in life. This means that the charity needs any help that you can give either financially or physically, more than ever.
In the early days of guide dogs, trainee dog walkers were often derided and people did not favour this charity. In the UK many people felt that it was a waste of time and cruel to the animal anyway but how wrong they were.
Over the years that they are together an owner and his or her guide dog usually develop a special bond. Ultimately the dog will have to retire in order for the owner to have a safe, fit and well dog acting as a guide.
Until that time though a guide dog will be a blind person's eyes and almost constant companion. Many people who are blind hold down challenging jobs these days and their guide dog will usually be welcome in the workplace also.
Times have changed and guide dogs for the blind is one way that they have changed for the better.
Guide Dogs for the Blind UK
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