PORTLAOISE man George Percy has become the first person in Laois to own a Golden Doodle guide dog.
George recevied his new dog Hallie from the Irish Guide Dog centre in Cork last April, after previously owning two labrador guide dogs. George has been using guide dogs since 1999 and owned each of his previous dogs for approximately seven years each, before they went into retirement.
“It takes two years to train a guide dog and about 400 man hours to bring the dog up to standard”, George told the Leinster Express. “The dogs are a tribute to the great work done at the training centre”.
George, who lives in Fieldbrook, said that every dog is different, and before bringing Hallie home, he spent three weeks doing a residential training course in Cork.
“We trained from 9am to 6pm every day for three weeks, as a bonding exercise. It was very intense. After this it takes between six months and a year at home to bring the dog up to speed,” he says.
George is delighted with his new companion.
“I love her, we are getting on very good. She is a real elegant dog”.
George said that one of the problems he faced when getting Hallie was how his three young children would react.
“When our last dog retired, we did prepare the children and there were a few tears but they are thrilled with the new dog. The dog goes haywire when the children come in, especially my two year old who is mad into dogs. It really helped everybody settle in,” he said.
Hallie is very much a part of the family when she is not working but it is a different ball game when she puts her harness on.
“Once a dog has its harness on, it knows it is working. There are certain rules such as the children are not allowed to feed the dog, and although there is play, it has to be structured,” he said.
Dogs qualify after their training at approximately two years old and can work for between six and eight years. At the Irish Guide Dog centre, dogs are matched carefully with their new owners.
“Like any working dog, these dogs are matched, accoring to your height, weight, workload, surroundings, how much traffic is around, how many people are around, whether there are a lot of shops, if you walk a lot and if you have a family. For instance if my dog hadn’t been trained to be around children she would be unsuitable for me,” said George.
Five people in Laois currently use guide dogs, are there are five families currently waiting on assistance dogs. It costs roughly €38,000 to train a guide dog and provide back up throughout its life. At the moment there are 41 assistance dogs being trained this year. As well as training guide dogs, the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind also have ongoing training in independent living skills and using a long cane.
Richard Connell, branch secretary with Laois Guide Dogs told the Leinster Express that the charity has been operating in Laois for the past 25 years and do a lot of fundraising.
“We are indebted to thet people of Laois for their support. The generosity of the public knows no bounds”.
Richard is completing a charity walk on the Camino Way in Spain from September 1 to Spetember 8 and is currently fundraising to meet his target of €2,000. All proceeds will go to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. he is organising a table quiz in Peigs Bar in Portlaoise which takes place tomorrow night (Thursday) at 9pm to raise funds for the walk and all are welcome.
Laois Guide Dogs are also holding an open day in Abbeyleix Garden Estate (formerly DeVesci Estate) on Sunday July 29 and all are welcome. This day is being organised in conjunction with Portlaoise Lions Club and Abbeyleix Lions Club and all are welcome to attend.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer with Laois Guide Dogs or who would like to find out more information can contact Richard Connell at 087 277 6450.