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The first guide dog I ever had was way back in 1985 I went to a place called Nuffield house which is situated in a town called Bolton which is in Lancashire or Greater Manchester. I stayed there as a residential client for three weeks. Then when I qualified I was able to take Honey home with me. She was a pure labrador what they call yellow in colour. Honeyís working life was 9 years as I had to retire her early due to artharritis in her back legs. I was able to keep her as a pet. The things that she used to get up too though. You could make up a sandwich and leave it on the table and just turn your back for a second and then when you came back to eat your sandwich the dog would have eaten the lot. You darenít leave anything out on the kitchen unit because when you were not there, she used to jump up on the unit and scoff the lot. I remember once she ate a half tub of margarine and yes you have guessed it, she was as sick as a dog. Then one time I rrember that Barrie and I took honey for a walk off the harness in to the centre of Darwen obviously we couldnít take her in to the shops but anyway I remember she picked up a dolop of horse shit and held it in her mouth all the way to town and all the way back and she just would not drop it right till we got near home. I turned to Barrie and said Iím not letting that dog lick me now you will have to wash her mouth out with some soap I am definitely not touching her. Barrieís reply was well do you think that I want her to lick me jokingly as Barrie is very good with dogs really, or should it be that he is very good with me and that he would do almost anything for me.

Then sadly Honey got sick and we had to take her backwards and forwards to the vets and he gave her pills and injections to keep her going. Then one Saturday in September of 1992 I got up in the morning and let honey out to relieve herself and then she couldnít get back in as we have some quite steep steps leading to the back door and I remember standing there and she was whining for me to pick her up and bring her in but I couldnít. So when my husband Barrie came down I told him that she couldnít get back in again but by the time Barrie had got to the door, she had managed to get back in but then as she walked forwards she fell over and then every time she got up and took a few steps she fell down again.This told me that her back legs had gone and now it was time to let her go. So Barrie and I ordered a taxi and took her down to the vets. The vet took one look at her and said well Mrs. Heaton I could give her another injection and some more pills but at the end of the day there is nothing I can do about her legs. So I decided it would be kinder to have her put gently to sleep. Thank goodness I donít have to make that decision too often. It was awful for the first week or two as I missed her and by this time I already had my second guide dog called Dawn she had been honeyís friend too and she missed her more than we did I supposed. It did upset her for a while as her work did deterrioate for a while and I rang the Guide Dog Centre to see why. I really never thought that a dog would grieve like that. Then I got to thinking that sure they must feel it like we do in their own way. Guide dogs told me that sometimes its not unusual for a dog to be off its food for a while, well Dawn was never that but she did miss honey as she did look all over the house for her. But we soon got over it as life goes on.

Dawn was what I call a second-hand guide dog meaning that she had been trained and given to someone but that lady took ill so in the end the dog had to go back to the centre to be re-trained. They rang me up and told me that they thought they had found a dog for me this was when Honey retired of course and I had both of them. At first there was a bit of Jealousy but after a week or two they both were best pals, only honey used to push Dawn out of the way of the fire so that she could get there instead of Dawn it was quite commical to watch. Sometimes I used to enter the room and Dawn used to be at one side of the fireplace and Honey used to be on the other side just like two bookends. Sometimes they used to lie side by side which was really nice.

doris and me in the snow. Dawn worked for ten years which is very good for a guide dog. Dawn was never quite as naughty as Honey but she was a great protector she used to follow me around everywhere and when I was sitting in a chair she would come and settle down curled up under my legs or she would be by my side. She used to incessantly bark in the garden outside and I also found out that she chased dogs even when she was in harness. The guide dog instructors came out to see her but as usual she was as good as gold or we just didnít come across any dogs on our walk that day. But what they gave me was a thing called a halti which is like a white muzzle. I didnít like using it much but it did the trick it stopped her because she knew that if she tried to go for the dog the halti would tighten up round her face. I just gave a gentle tug on the lead and hey! Presto. But after a while I didnít bother with the halti but I was able to control her but she was a strong dog. But I managed to a certain point and then as she got older it became a bit more dangerous. I knew that I would have to give her up sooner or later but I kept putting it off. But eventually it got too bad really so I just rang up the guide dog centre and they sent some one round to see me at home. Then I was put on the waiting list till they found me a dog which was in 1999. So Dawn retired in 1999 in February. She now lives with a nice family in a place called Hapton which is not too far away but far enough away so that I donít bump in to her, not meaning to be unkind but I donít think it would have been a good idea for her to live too near to me as I did have great difficulty in parting with her in the first place.

Which brings me nicelyon to my third dog and she is another labrador with some retriever in her she is called Doris. At first I wasnít sure about the name Doris very much but I guess now that I am used to it and I look at Doris and yes I think she does suit it. Doris is smaller than the other two dogs lighter in colour as well. Doris tends to get very excited when she sees cats but she will sit and watch a cat from a distance even when she is in harness, if she sees a cat or dog her tail will bristle up as I can feel it on my hand when I am holding the harness and she will start to pull a little. Doris is a very playful dog she is full of energy. You should see her running up very steep hills and run down them again in the park.

Here we are in 2010 and sadly Doris is no longer with me. My son Thomas took her out for a walk in July and she hurt her leg, she was limping a bit but we thought it would just get better in time. Anyway the limping got worse so I took her to the vets and they gave her some pain killers. These did not really help they just made her very drowsy. So I took her back to the vets and we decided to put her under to see what was going on with the leg by this time though Doris had developed arthritis in her other three legs anyway she had an x-ray and it showed that she had a very badly torn ligament.

Doris was 13 by the way now if she had been a younger dog, she could have had an operation to put it right but it was decided that she was too old to have it and that we would try some injections instead. Well this really did not work I was not really happy because she seemed to be getting worse.

She could hardly stand so her quality of life wasn't much at all! so I had someone over from guide dogs she took one look at doris and said, she looks very tired as doris wasn't really eating much by this time. We were due to go on holiday at the end of July so I really needed to make a decision before I went away. I kept asking the family was I doing the right thing. The vet said that there was another type of pill we could use but at the end of the day because the other tablets that she was on didn't work then it was highly unlikely that this other drug would work. So we had her put to sleep on July 26th, I have kept her ashes and they are still on my fireplace so she is watching us. I think I may bury her ashes in the garden.

Which brings me on to my 4th guide dog who is called Inca. Inca again was a second-hand guide dog as he has a bit of a story behind him but its best not to mention that here. Anyway Inca came to me in July 2007 I qualified with him on the July 27th. Inca is bigger than the other three dogs and he is a male dog. I have never had a male dog before. \He seems to be a good worker but he is very laid back and can be very lazy at times. He is a typical Labrador though always in to food but yet he is not greedy at his feeding time he does take his time.

Picture of Inca.
Sandra with Dawn Sandra with Doris

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