As some of you probably already know, after a very long process, I was finally accepted onto the waiting list for a Guide Dog, and I thought that I would tell you how I got there.
The first step.
Once I had eventually decided that it was time to start the application process, which wasn’t a particularly easy decision, I looked online and found the contact details for my local branch of Guide Dogs, which happened to be Guide Dogs Leeds, and sent them an email saying that I would like to know how I go about starting the application process. After a couple of hours I received an email from a really nice woman called Gail, who told me a little bit more about the application process, and said that she would give me a call the following day to arrange for someone from the Guide Dogs Leeds Team to come and see me. I then received a phone call the following day from a really nice woman called Amy, who told me a little bit more about the process, and arranged to come and see me about a week later.
My first meeting.
Then after about a week of waiting, the day of my appointment rolled around and Amy arrived. She also brought another woman called Hannah with her, who she said was a Guide Dog Mobility Officer, GDMO, in training, and asked if it was okay if she sat in on our meeting. I said of course it was, and we started to have a little bit of a chat about why I wanted to start the application process, what a Guide Dog can and can’t do, how I would use a Guide Dog, and a little about my life, including my family, and that I had a dog called Riley. She then performed a kind of Eye test, and got me to look at a book with lines of different sized writing on it to see what I could actually see. We then just talked for a little bit longer, before we went on a little bit of a walk to see how fast I walked, and how well I used my White Cane. I chose my local corner shop, as it’s only about a five minutes walk away. Then once we had finished our little walk, we went back to my house and Amy said that she would be in touch soon to discuss the next step of the process, before both Amy and Hannah said their goodbye’s.
The Awkward Moment.
Then after a couple of weeks, Amy called again to see if she could come and see me and we made another appointment for her to come and see me the following week. Then after a week of waiting, the day of my next appointment rolled around. Amy brought Hannah again, and after we had another little bit of a chat about how things were going, and about some of the places and routes that I would be working with my potential Guide Dog, we went on another little bit of a walk to my local corner shop. But once we had arrived, things changed a little, as Amy wanted to see how I walked with a Dog. But instead of me walking with an actual Guide Dog, Amy showed me the harness and lead, the correct ways to hold them, taught me a couple of vital commands such as forward, and just let me go. But because She hadn’t brought a Dog with her, she pretended to be the Dog, which as you can probably guess got a little bit awkward, as once the Dog has done something that it’s supposed to do, like cross a road safely for instance, you are supposed to reward the Dog with either a good boy or good girl. Then once we had gone for a little bit of a walk to my local Post Office, as we needed to go somewhere that had a couple of roads to cross, we headed back to my house. Amy then said that she would give me a call soon to discuss the next step of the process, before both Amy and Hannah said their goodbye’s.
Riley meets a friend.
It was actually several months before I heard from Amy again, as the next step of the process was for Riley to meet a Guide Dogg to see how he would react to one, which meant that I needed to wait for when a Guide Dogs in training would be available.
So after a couple of months, I got another phone call from Amy asking if she could come and see me again to see how Riley would react with another Dog. Then after a week of waiting, the day of my appointment rolled around and both Amy and Hannah arrived. Then after a little bit of a chat, my stepdad got Riley into his lead, while Amy and Hannah went to their Car to get a beautiful Guide Dog called Yaeger, and we all went out onto the field opposite my house for them to meet each other. Then after a couple of minutes of them both running around, we brought them back to my house to see how Riley would react to another Dog being in his house. It turns out that we had absolutely nothing to worry about, as both Riley and Yaeger got on like a house on fire. Then after about ten or so minutes of us all talking and watching Riley and Yaeger run around my living room, it was time for Amy, Hannah, and Yaeger to go, so once we had gotten both Dogs under control, Amy said that she would give me a call soon to discuss the next step of the process, before both Amy and Hannah said their goodbye’s.
My client day.
Then after a couple of months, I got another phone call from Amy asking if I would like to take part in a client day at the Guide Dogs Leeds office in Heddingly, to which I of course said yes. She then said that she would send me an email to confirm the date and times, and after about a week of waiting, the day of my client day finally rolled around.
What happened at my Guide Dogs client day.
Once me and Jamie had finally arrived in Leeds, and had wandered around for a little while, we ordered an Uber to get to the Guide Dogs Leeds office in Heddingly. Then once we had eventually figured out that we were in the right place, we entered the massive building and were very kindly greeted by a really nice woman, who said hi, and that I must be Luke. Jamie then said his goodbye’s, and headed off back into Leeds whilst I had my client day.
Then once Jamie had headed off back into Leeds, the really nice woman guided me up a couple of flights of stairs and into a massive room with a lot of chairs, and introduced me to everyone in the room. There was a man who was in his late fifties who had brought his teenage grand-son, and also a really nice lady in her early forties whoo had brought her husband.
Then after a couple of minutes of us all chatting, a really nice woman called Sue introduced herself, and started to tell us all about what would be happening throughout the day, including that we would learn how to navigate with a Guide Dog, learn how to groom one, learn how to look after their health, and that we would be going out at some point so that they could see how we walked with an actual Guide Dogg.
We were all then taken off into different rooms to do different parts of the day, and it turned out that I would be doing the navigating portion of the day first. I was then introduced to a beautiful Black Labrador called Zara, who it turned out that I would be working with for most of the day. Then me, Sue, and Zara started to do a little bit of navigating, and Sue taught me the correct ways to go up and down a flight of stairs, and how to open and go through a door, which was very strange, as you have to open it with your right hand, then put your back against the door to keep it open, and then signal to the Dog by saying forward that it’s okay to go through the door. Then once we had gone down a couple of flights of stairs and through some very heavy glass doors, we eventually went outside and Sue showed me the Dogs spending area. She then told me that I had to encourage Zara to go to the bathroom by saying the word busy. We then turned around and went back up to the meeting room using some of the skills that Sue had just taught me.
Then once we had relaxed in the meeting room for a minute or two, another really nice woman showed both me and Zara into the grooming room, and told me all about the Dogs health and grooming routine, including that it needs to be kept under a certain weight, and that it has to get it’s coat trimmed about every three to six months.
Then once we had finished in the grooming room, Sue put Zara back in her crate and we went back into the meeting room and relaxed for a couple of minutes before another really nice woman started to tell me all about how I would have to look after the Dog’s health, including that I had to smell it’s ears every day to detect for any Ear infections. She also told me about some of the toys that the Dog would like, as even though it’s a Guide Dog, once it’s harness comes off, it’s just a regular Dog, including a Kong that I could fill with some of the Dog’s food, and something called a Nylarbone which is made out of incredibly thick Nylon and comes in a load of different flavours. We also talked about the Dogs feeding routine, including that depending on the Dog, that it will most likely like to eat at a certain time, and that it won’t eat until i’ve blown it’s command whistle.
Then the really nice woman brought Zara back into the room and showed me how to groom her, including that there’s two different brushes, a palm sized one that you use to loosen all the loose hairs of the Dog’s coat, and a thin one with two sides that you use at an angle to remove all of the hairs that you’ve just loosened. You then use the first brush again to massage the Dog’s hair to promote a healthy and shiny coat. I then also had a go at grooming one of the other Dogs, a massive Golden Labrador Retriever called Jerry, who was a lot different to Zara, as he had very long and thick hairs which meant that he needed quite a lot of brushing.
Then after I had finished brushing both Zara and Jerry, Sue said that it was time to head off somewhere to see how I walked with a Dog. So she put Zara back on her lead, and we headed downstairs and got into Sue’s Car. Then after a little bit of a drive, we arrived at a really secluded street and got out. Sue then handed me Zara’s lead and harness, gave me a few useful commands, and just let me go. Then after about fifteen minutes of me walking with Zara, Sue said that it was time to go back to the office, but on the drive back, she said that she thought that I did really well, and that I seem like I was really relaxed with Zara.
Then once we had gotten back to the office, I just relaxed in the meeting room for a little while before it was time to go. So once Jamie had eventually arrived, we wondered off back into Leeds to get something to eat.
Then a couple of days after I had my client day, Amy called to tell me that I was officially on the waiting list for my very own Guide Dog!
There you go, that’s how I got accepted onto the waiting list for a Guide Dog. I now just have to wait for the call to say that they’ve found a match for me, and then the really fun and hard work can begin!