Yours readers did an amazing thing by sponsoring a guide dog puppy and the good news is our pup Keller is now qualified. In part one of a two-part series we look back at his early training...
In 2013, we came to you with a challenge. We wanted to raise £5,000 to train one special little puppy to help transform the life of a person with sight loss. Being a team of faithful animal lovers here at the Yours office who receive a postbag full of letters every week telling us about your lovely pets, we knew this was a cause close to all of our hearts. So when we asked you to make our dream of sponsoring a guide dog happen, you were all too eager to help.
Over just a few months of fundraising, in which marathons were run and dozens of buns baked and gleefully scoffed in the name of charity, you met the target of £5,000. And the journey of one diligent little labrador retriever pup could begin.
But you didn’t stop there in your donations and to date, kind-hearted Yours readers have raised a staggering £23,085 for Guide Dogs – that’s more than four times our original target. All of this money has gone straight to support the wonderful work Guide Dogs do, helping loving pups provide assistance, independence and companionship to people with a visual impairment.
So here’s a little reminder of the Yours guide dog story – a tale your generosity alone made happen.
Welcome to the world
Our Yours guide dog took his first wobbly steps into the world as one of a trio of pups born to mum, Tara, at the Guide Dogs National Breeding Centre in Warwickshire. Tara was all too used to raising pups with big ambitions, with six of the seven babies from her previous litter now guide dogs, so it was clear these golden triplets were going to be destined for big things, too.
Calm, clever and a natural in front of the camera – as we discovered on a first photo shoot – we knew our wide-eyed pup would one day make a terrific guide dog. But before things could go any further, our little boy needed a name. So we asked you to put forward your suggestions. Once again, we were overwhelmed with your interest in our bouncing bundle of joy and after a lot of umming and ahhing over the fantastic suggestions you put forward, we finally christened our guide dog Keller.
The suggestion came from reader Julie Lock who said “the Irish meaning for Keller is companion, and of course, the deafblind American author, Helen Keller was a true inspiration.” Julie also had a personal reason for supporting the charity as her 13-year old daughter had just been accepted on the waiting list for a guide dog at the time.
The training begins
Now with a name to hang off his collar and the support of thousands of completely smitten Yours readers behind him, it wasn’t long before Keller was off to big school to learn how to be a real guide dog. At six weeks’ old, Keller had his first Puppy Profiling Assessment, to help Guide Dogs figure out his character and what kind of owner he might be best matched with. An easy-going chap who takes everything in his stride was the official verdict on his school report. Great qualities for guide dog potential!
Then it was time for Keller to be partnered up with his volunteer puppy walker, Violet. As a first-time puppy walker, Violet and Keller were able to find their feet (and paws) together. Side by side, they worked on house training, meeting lots of people and getting used to everyday obstacles like traffic, getting on the bus and meeting other animals. Naturally, Keller was a pro at this and by the end of his year with Violet, our plucky little pup had turned into a strapping young man with lots of love and support he was dying to give a special friend. His training was complete and the next most important chapter of his life as a guide dog could begin.
To find out what Keller’s up to now, grab a copy of our next issue, out on April 26th.
How to help Guide Dogs
Keller’s training as a guide dog was funded by Yours readers’ wonderful gifts. With no government funding, it’s generosity like this that funds these incredible animals
and their amazing work reconnecting people with sight loss to the world.
Two out of three guide dogs are also funded through gifts in Wills. Leaving a legacy to Guide Dogs in your Will is a great way of supporting the charity’s work for years to come. Whether it’s a small donation or a percentage of your estate, your contribution will help change lives, bringing hope, love and companionship to people with sight loss.
- To find out more about how these amazing dogs help change the lives of their owners request a FREE information pack and DVD by calling 0800 953 0113 or visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/life