GUIDE dog puppy foster carers are urgently needed in Warwick and Leamington.
Known as puppy walkers, they look after future guide dogs for the first year of their life from around seven weeks onwards. They provide the puppy with a vital foundation for its future role when it will be assisting someone with sight loss.
The role involves feeding, teaching basic obedience commands, and generally caring for a puppy’s needs on a daily basis. A key part of the role is also familiarising the puppy with many different environments, from shops and cafés to public transport.
Puppy walker Sarah McSweeney grew up in Leamington and as a child she saw the work that Guide Dogs were doing. With a family of her own, working part time and with two pet dogs, she decided to become a puppy walker herself, which to her, seemed the “natural thing to do”
Sarah, whose puppy Titus is currently doing his advanced training, told The Observer: “I was able to take Titus anywhere. People would come and chat to me when I was out in the street and I have made lots of new friends through the local puppy walking group.
“Titus kept me active and healthy, and by regularly walking him I have gained a greater knowledge of my local area and what it has to offer.
“People think that you have to actually train the puppies but this is not the case, there are 5 basic commands, and Guide Dogs is always there to offer ongoing support throughout.
“It is a truly wonderful thing to have done when I realise the difference that my work will make to a blind or partially sighted person.”
To be a puppy walker, a person or family will need to live somewhere with access to a suitable area where the puppy can go to the toilet during the day, including first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Although the puppy needs 24/7 care, it is possible for fosterers to occasionally have a dog at work with them if the environment is suitable, or it can be left a-lone for very short periods.
In order to provide enough homes for the puppies being born over the next few months, Guide Dogs urgently needs to recruit more volunteers.
Guide Dogs is holding an information day for potential puppy walkers, in Leamington’s Royal Priors shopping centre (outside Costa on the lower mall) on Friday May 12, from 10am to 2pm, and at Warwick Market on June 2. from 9am to 2pm.,
Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk for further details.