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One family’s journey to help train guide dog

Maverick, the 11-month old yellow labrador whose name suits his nature arrived in Ita Murray’s house in south Dublin when he was just a small puppy. Now he is almost fully grown and ready for assessment.

If he passes that assessment in the next four to five weeks, this could lead to a further year of training in Cork to become a registered guide dog.

This is the first time that Ita Murray, a manager who often works from home, and a mother to two young adult children, has trained a puppy for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Maverick was a small puppy when he arrived in Ita’s home

“It has been a great experience. Probably not what I expected. I think I underestimated what I was getting involved in and it’s been a lot of work, but people are really, really supportive when you go out in public.

“When you’re trying to walk they’re good for keeping their own dog away because he’s obviously a puppy, he’s attracted to other dogs. You’re the whole time watching everything that’s going on.”

Now Maverick is almost ready to leave Ita’s home, she has seen a big change in his readiness and behaviour.

“I knew from the very beginning he will be going. Now a lot of people have said: “Oh you will never let him go”, but you know, I will. I have to and we’re hoping he’ll be going to do something much much better. So it makes it worthwhile.”

She says he will be missed, even by her cat.

Maverick is almost ready to leave Ita’s home

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind is appealing for volunteers to become puppy raisers, to help them to become guide and assistance dogs.

Lucie Dehe is a puppy raising supervisor with the charity and a Canine Behaviour and Training Technician.

She visits people in their homes after they make a decision to take on a puppy for training.

“During those home visits I often emphasise that the first two to three months are a lot of work and it’s probably more work than what they think it’s going to be.

“You have to think having a puppy is like having a toddler running around without a nappy on. It’s kind of constant work.”

However she says the dogs will sleep a lot and when they are older, all the hard work begins to pay off.

“Once you get past that phase, it does get a bit easier,” she says. “Once you get to know the puppy as well and they get to know you.”

The charity is looking for volunteers who can make the time commitment work for them.

“We’ve had quite a lot of people working from home, people who are retired would have a lot of time to give a puppy as well, but you have to think that the dogs can get quite big and quite strong, so it depends if they would feel able to manage a dog like this.

“We have a lot of stay at home mums who do it as well and it’s nice for the dogs to be raised around children.”

She says the tiny puppies can grow quickly to be 25-30 kilos .

Webinars are running weekly with the next one on 28 February and then weekly on Wednesday’s throughout March.

Key information about puppy raising can be found on: https://www.guidedogs.ie/ways-to-help/volunteer/puppy-raising


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