I remember the first time I ever came into contact with a guide dog. I was in first class in primary school, so about seven years old. A woman called Sheila must have been visiting an older class in the school, and had been asked to come into our class with her dog Beth. I think she was a golden lab retriever. I remember thinking she was quite big and very soft compared to our pet dog, but now I know that’s because guide dogs are so well groomed. I remember feeling the harness on the dog as it sat, and she explained how you weren’t really meant to touch the dog when it had the harness on, but of course i could.
I was fairly shy at this stage, so although I knew from a young age that I wanted a dog, I don’t think I asked her too many questions,even though I was probably dying to. Maybe a year or two later I met a woman from Scotland with a huge German Shepherd guide dog called Tess, and I got my photograph taken with her. I asked more questions then, and even more during the trial walk I had with a guide dog in training called Walter, during a guide dogs open day in Belfast when I was about ten.
Meeting those three dogs had a huge affect on me, as it helped to clarify how much I already knew that I wanted my own guide dog. The first time I met OJ was a special day, and couldn’t have gone better for me.
The reason I’m thinking about this is because a few days ago I found
of little Ellie Clarke meeting a guide dog for the very first time. The instructor is fantastic with her, and its clear from the video and from reading the blog that her parents want to give her every opportunity as young as possible. Ellie seems like such a lovely intelligent child, and I hope someday, if she decides she wants one, she can be as happy with a guide dog as I am with OJ. More importantly for now though, its a coincidence that today is Ellie’s 3rd birthday!
So, even though probably none of us are lucky enough to have video footage, do you remember your first time meeting (or even seeing) a guide dog?