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AS PART of their animal agents summer reading challenge theme, Melksham Library invited two volunteers from Guide Dogs for the Blind to come and give a talk about how guide dogs do a fantastic job of being real life animal agents by helping humans to live an independent life and to also get a chance to meet some training pups in action.
“Our theme this year has been about animal agents and so we have been holding events throughout the summer to highlight this,” said Karen Parkes, manager of Melksham Library. “Having Guide Dogs come do a talk and visit with the pups has been really amazing.
“The talk was a hugely popular event where we have even ended up having to turn people away because of the large turn out. Events like these are really important as it raises awareness for the charity and it also raises awareness for the library in attracting new members.”
The puppy walker volunteers who were giving the talk were Hilary Reed, a puppy walker for 35 years and Sue Parker who has been a volunteer for two years.
Hilary said, “The pups go wherever we go, so events like this provide great training for them especially when dealing with children.”
At the end of the talk the was an opportunity for members of the audience to come up and meet the pups who were four in total, Jacko, Titan, Cyril and Wilbur.
Puppy walkers play a vital role in the early socialisation and education of guide dogs. At about six weeks of age, puppies start their early training, remaining with the trainer until they are around one year old, at which point they are transferred to a training centre to begin their specialised training.
The aim of puppy walking is to produce a puppy that is socially well behaved, friendly and responsive to the handler.
Hilary says, “In 2016 1,375 puppies were born. Some are kept for future breeding and some may not make the grade as a guide but can go to help other charities for other types of work. 2016 saw 828 people matched with a working dog and there are currently 5015 guide dog partnerships working in the U.K.
“Over the last seven years the waiting list for a guide dog has grown by 25%. There is no upper or minimum age limit for guide dog ownership. Each applicant is judged on their own merit and capability.
“It takes 20 months approx of specialised training to transform a dog as a Guide Dog. The cost of a guide dog from cradle to grave is £56,000, these figures can be broken down and we receive no government funding!
“The association has approx 16,000 volunteers and if you would like to volunteer please contact me hilaryreed52@hotmail. com for further information or google guide dogs!”
Hilary will also be running a coffee morning to raise funds for the charity on October 14th from 10-12pm at Westbury Labour club.