June 16, 2020
Children with sight loss will soon benefit from the expansion of Guide Dogs Cymru as they bring four-legged friends into their lives.
The charity is rolling out a Buddy Dog service, enabling visually impaired children and young people to enjoy the friendships and benefits of a dog.
Buddy dogs can have a positive impact on a sight impaired child’s well-being, improving their self-confidence, improving relationships and building a greater trust in themselves, and others.
The buddy dogs receive the same early foundation training as their guide dog counterparts, but follow a different career path to a guide dog. Families in Wales are being invited to register their interest in attending a Buddy Dog Discovery Event, which will give them an understanding of the responsibilities involved when a dog joins the family.
Ellis Hughes, 11, has sight loss due to nystagmus and albinism. He had his first dog when he was seven, and is now the proud owner of golden retriever Ralph, who lives with his family in Holyhead, Anglesey.
Ellis’s mother, Sian Edwardson-Williams, said: “The buddy dog scheme is brilliant, and we’ve been so lucky to have our two. Our new dog, Ralph, is so laid back. He’s a wonderful companion for Ellis, and it’s good preparation for potential guide dog ownership in the future. Customer Experience Lead for Guide Dogs, Caroline Abraham, said: “It’s a case of jobs for our dogs. All our dogs go through the same foundation training and we decide the best career path for them as they progress. Some will become guide dogs, and others are better suited to the buddy dog role.