How did your volunteering begin with guide dogs?
About 15 years ago in Lower Hutt when our children were two, three, five, and eight years old, we decided that we would like to give this a go. Before we knew it we were interviewed and trained with Kim, who loved the fact that we had kids. Before long we were boarding guide dogs, starting with Tara who, although retired, needed babysitting, and then Hobbit, Icon, Ipoh, Taupo, Oakley and then so many they all became a blur! Living near the hospital in Lower Hutt we did the toilet breaks and exercising for patients unable to do so themselves. A long term boarder was Lucy, who we had for six months until she was matched in Palmerston North. We were desperate to be puppy raisers but at that time Wellington was not doing puppies.
Did you get to raise a puppy?
After moving to Nelson in 2009, we had high hopes but sadly it was not until 2017 when we got our own bundle of black lab fluff, Morton. By that time we had two blonde Labradors, two cats, some sheep and a goat and lived in the middle of a vineyard. Morton became a frequent flyer as Matt worked a couple days each week in Wellington, and Morton went too for his weekly sleepover. Sadly Morton was withdrawn as he was “allergic” to the harness – he even developed a limp when it went on. So he lives with us now and we have never seen him limp since.
Some of our guide dogs that stand out – great memories
• Lucy – Before we moved to Nelson, about a year after she had been matched, we got to see her again. Despite us all sneaking into the room not saying a word, Lucy was wagging her tail so hard and strongly that her owner knew that we were there. Lots of hugs and tears. They never forget you.
• Icon who moved to Nelson before us with his owner and who retired to Golden bay – loved water. One day when we also had Lucy, both dogs took off from the car at the park where we used to free run them. They headed straight into the creek. If you could imagine the scene, a mother with an elderly sight-impaired man on her arm and four children trying to run after two manic dogs. Two yellow labs went into the creek and two brown smelly labs came out. The crazy brown dogs were doing zoomies, and there was a lot of chasing by four children, lots of laughing, and a very smelly and dirty car road home. The dogs and children were bathed, and the car was cleaned out. When we took an exhausted elderly smiling man home with very dirty mud-splashed trousers and a clean dog, he declared that that this was the best day ever.
What is your best guide dog tip?
Fake sleeping and snoring if required when guide dogs want to tell you that it’s time to get up. It works, ask Jess!
Funniest moments with guide dogs.
Matt was standing at the traffic lights wearing his sunglasses when a man dodged cars and crossed against traffic to get to him. He told Matt that the guide dog had put him in front of the post and moved him and the dog slightly to the left. Matt thanked him and crossed the road put the dog in the car and drove off – the look in his face was priceless.
Living in the Hutt, all the guide dogs we boarded would take the train into Wellington to go to work with Matt. He was a regular sight on the train. One evening at the supermarket a lady approached me grocery shopping with the dog, spoke to the dog and said, “So what have you done with your daddy then?”