‘I’d hit rock bottom. But then a fluffy hero came to the rescue’

Saved by a guide dog

by take-a-break |
Updated on

When I lost my devoted doggy, I hit rock bottom. Then Midas the Labrador changed my life. By Andrea Cooper, 31

Guide dog saved my life

As I listened to the man sitting opposite me in my living room, my heart sank.

‘I’m sorry, but the waiting time for a guide dog is at least two years in your area,’ he said.
‘Two years!’ I said, with tears in my eyes. ‘But how will I cope?’
Just days before, my beloved guide dog Volley had passed away, and I’d reached out to a charity for a new dog.
But now, on top of my heartbreak, I had no idea when I’d get a new trusty companion.
I’d been born with a condition called optic atrophy, which affected my optic nerve and left me with extreme tunnel vision.
Growing up, getting around on my own had been incredibly tough.
But all that changed when 
I was 14, and I became the youngest person in the UK to receive a guide dog.

'We have a potential match for you'

She was called Cara, and for nine years, she helped me get from A to B twice as quickly as 
I could before.
Putting my trust in an animal was tough at first. But she’d quickly become indispensable, giving me the confidence to become more independent.
When Cara retired, I’d spent the next six years with Volley. But he’d been put to sleep after I’d discovered a lump in his side.
Losing him was tough enough, but now I’d lost my lifeline too.
Although I was classed as high priority, the COVID-19 pandemic had created a huge training backlog for guide puppies.
I didn’t know how I was going to cope without one.
I can’t bear it, I posted on Facebook. The wait for a dog is two years!

Guide dog saved my life

A friend suggested I contact The Seeing Dogs Alliance, a charity that trained guide or ‘seeing’ dogs from puppies.
The pup lived in a family home for a year, then with its instructor during training.
Then when the dog was ready to go to someone who was visually impaired, it was placed with an individual that matched its speed and energy levels.
I got in touch with them and began the application process.
But as the months passed, being without a guide dog took a huge toll.
I started working from home instead of going into my office job, and my workmates could tell I just wasn’t myself any more. I refused to go on public transport too.
The charity offered me training on how to walk with a cane until a dog was ready for me. But my confidence plummeted and I stopped 
going out.
Then, seven months after applying, a lady called Sue who trained the puppies called and said: ‘We have a potential match for you. He’s a white Labrador called Midas.’

my guide dog saved my life

A few weeks later, she brought him to visit me at my home in Coventry, West Midlands, to assess if we were the right match.
Midas padded into my living room, and instantly started sniffing everywhere to get his bearings.
‘Hello, Midas!’ I said, excitedly.
We hit it off instantly.
A month later, I went up to Manchester for a week of intensive one-to-one training sessions with Midas, to build trust between us.
We went on countless walks around places unfamiliar to me. Incredibly, we were completely in sync and our bond quickly grew.
Midas navigated obstacles so well, it meant I could listen to my phone giving directions while he led me along at speed.
Once the training was complete, Sue said: ‘He’s yours!’
Since then, Midas has proved to be the perfect companion. Not only is he a great guide. but he’s cheeky with it!

As soon as the clock hits 5pm, he’s there, pawing my laptop shut and grabbing my trainers ready for a walk.
He’s learnt some brilliant tricks too.
At pedestrian crossings, I say: ‘Find the button.’
My clever pup goes up on his hind legs to point it out to me.
And on buses and trains, he finds me an empty seat and puts his paws on it, so I know where to sit.
Midas has been my right-hand pooch for eight months now and I’d be lost without him. Since he’s come into my life, my confidence has grown tenfold.
I honestly can’t thank The Seeing Dogs Alliance enough. I’ve struck gold with Midas — he has truly changed my life!

● It costs approximately £20,000 and takes 12 months for The Seeing Dog Alliance to train a fully qualified seeing dog. To donate, visit seeingdogs.org.uk. 100 per cent of any funds raised goes towards training the dogs.

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