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Otford Fete is naming a puppy

Otford Village Fete will be endeavouring to raise £2,500 this year to name a puppy. Our support will go towards the £50,000 it costs to train one guide dog. We have set up a Just Giving page and would love you to join us as we fundraise for this important cause.

Did you know?

There are around 30,000 children and young people in the UK living with sight loss.  There is no upper or minimum age for guide dog ownership, in fact the youngest guide dog owner Ben was just 11 years old when he was partnered with his dog Logan.

In August 2018 Guide Dogs celebrated its 10,000th trainee, an adorable yellow Labrador named David. Since the UK’s first guide dogs were trained in 1931, the organisation has gone on to become the world’s largest breeder and trainer of working dogs. 

Puppy David was born on 13 June 2018 and will complete around 20 months of specialised training before being partnered with someone who has sight loss. The first year they are raised by a puppy-raiser.

Sally Savory - her year as a puppy raiser

Meeting Poppy and Primrose for the first time.

Meeting Poppy and Primrose for the first time.

Primrose is learning how to hold her hands so as not to get them “nipped” by an enthusiastic puppy.

Primrose is learning how to hold her hands so as not to get them “nipped” by an enthusiastic puppy.

In the summer of 2017 a small bundle of golden fluff arrived at our house ready to cause mischief and steal our hearts for the next year! Puppy raisers always start by getting the puppy settled in (with help of a blanket from home smelling of mum) and then we teach them toilet training, basic obedience, and how to walk nicely on a lead. Our main job though is to give the puppy confidence in a variety of situations. We introduced our pup to as many people as we could, from the very young to the elderly, and also made sure she was comfortable in as many different situations as possible. This meant taking her to a variety of places from cafes, shops, busy high streets, to peaceful fields and quiet villages. We tried different transport, busses, trains, cars (and any other type you came across) and wherever we went the puppy went too, whether it was to the hairdressers, dentist, the allotment or even sometimes the theatre. Another very important job for the puppy raiser is to train them to know where their new owner is and to find suitable places to cross roads and learn when it is safe to do so.

Every puppy raiser also has a Puppy Supervisor on hand to help with any problems and advise them when it is time to tackle something more challenging. In our area there are puppy classes organised by the local branch of Guide Dogs where we could practice exercises like finding a seat, walking past other dogs or staying in position without getting distracted. There was always a coffee break at these classes where you could arrange to meet up for walks or off lead runs with others, as well as outings to London or the seaside with the dogs, so there is always a community there for you, and it can be quite a social year!

Eventually though the year is up and it is time for your pup to move on. It’s a sad day when you pass them over and some tears are shed but you have your fingers crossed that all that hard work will pay off and they will go on to become life changers!


Next, they are sent to a guide dog trainer for about four months and they do all the initial training – introducing them to the harness and the guiding tasks. Finally, they go to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor before being matched with a blind or visually impaired person. It is this individual’s responsibility to ensure that the dog is comfortable settling in social situations. It is vital for the owner to know that if they visit a restaurant or a café that the dog is going to just lie down and be comfortable.

Pairing, as you can imagine, is a crucial part of their role as the speed that a dog walks is pretty important because some people move really fast whilst others are a lot slower.  In addition, consideration is required if the individual travels by tube or bus to work, the lifestyle of the owner is a big consideration when match the dog.

Guide Dogs is not a new phenomenon, the first know depiction of a dog with a man is depicted on a mural found in the ruins of the Roman town of Herculaneum. During the First World War dogs were used to help soldiers who came home blind, often as a result of poisonous gas exposure.

In August 1916, the world’s first guide dog school for the blind was opened in Germany by Dr Gerhard Stalling after he noticed how his dog behaved when he left it with a blind patient after being called away urgently. On returning he noticed that his dog was almost looking after the gentleman.

There are a number of people in our village who are beneficiaries of Guide Dogs – this is Howard’s story:


Howard and Rosie

Howard And Rosie Shaking Paws October 18

Howard was at university when his sight and hearing problems became obvious.

With great help from family and friends he nevertheless achieved a PhD, lectured at City University, ran an Informatics Department at the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and travelled across Europe, America, Tanzania and China.

In 2014, at the age of 50, Howard was persuaded to seek greater independence via a Guide Dog and last year the ideal dog was found. Howard now goes everywhere with “Rosie” largely on his own. She barks when the doorbell sounds or the phone rings. Howard and Rosie regularly travel across Kent, visit family in Scotland and occasionally attend NHS dinners in London ballrooms seating 1800 people and 1 dog. 

In the 2017 New Year’s Honours List, Dr Howard Leicester was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Improving Patient Services in the NHS.

Howard goes to NHS meetings around the country, now always with Rosie.