Guide Dogs: support the science behind why they’re so brilliant
His owner is Professor John Hilbourne. To John, Spencer is a highly intelligent, superbly trained guide dog. He’s proved to be a strategic thinker, a calculating, caring animal whose work enables John to lead an independent life.
But his very existence as well as his considerable skills are based on science, hard evidence about what works and what doesn’t.
Spencer was born in Leamington Spa, at what is now the Guide Dogs Association National Breeding Centre. Once weaned, he went to a puppy walker in Perry Barr for about a year before returning to Leamington Spa for intensive training that lasted another year. Then he was placed with John, chosen because he leads an active life, is over 6 foot tall and pretty strong.
They place each dog carefully, to suit their owner. Spencer has a lively curious mind, he likes challenges, and he’s a big, strong animal — too tall for me, and he could easily put me over should he decide to do so. (I haven’t let on to him about that.) John and he suit each other well. They’re a good team.
Everything about Spencer’s life is the product of careful research going over decades carried out by the Guide Dogs Association. The GDA undertake three kinds of research:
- Canine research
- Psycho-social research into the emotional well-being of their service users
- Opthalmic research
All of that’s expensive. So John has written this book A Guide Dog Is For Life, a mere £6 to you, and with all profits going straight into the bank account of the Guide Dogs Association.
As for my relationship with Spencer? I often assert he thinks I am the Goddess of the Clent Hills — we go on long free-run walks together in the wilder parts of Birmingham and the West Midlands.
John suspects, however, that Spencer thinks he’s the top dog, and I’m merely his minion. Whatever, our hikes together mean he’s very alert, and physically very fit — with me, he runs! Out on the hills or in the woods, he thrills to a glorious freedom to be just Dog. And I take such pleasure from his sheer enjoyment in the moment, as well as stretching my limbs and admiring the view.
P.S. The first story in the book is called Spencer: The Guide Dog’s Tale, in which I get a mention. His minion, yeah. On page 16.