Volunteering with Guide Dogs: Give Back and Make New Friends
As retirement approaches, the opportunities to embark on voluntary work become increasingly appealing.
But what to do? If you are not going to get paid, it has to be something you enjoy, something you feel passionate about and, hopefully, something that will give you a new perspective on life.
Is Volunteering with Guide Dogs for You?
After much research, I think I have found the perfect combination. As a lifelong dog lover, I have joined the ranks of UK Guide Dogs puppy walkers.
After being assessed for suitability and taking an informal interview to make sure I was up to the challenge, a small bundle of wriggling fur was delivered to me with a comprehensive manual.
My first pup arrived in late 2014. She was the never to be forgotten “Joni,” an 8 week old black Labrador, who instantly captured my heart.
So We Started Our Journey Together
For the next 12 months, we worked through the stages of development. The goal was to raise a well-behaved dog that was ready to continue with more advanced training. This involved attending puppy classes and experiencing as much as possible, such as trains, buses, shops and restaurants.
We also had some memorable outings, such as attending a tea party for MP’s at the houses of Parliament. We joined in fund raising events in the local shopping centre. We had a day out at the seaside, travelling by train with 10 other guide dogs and their walkers. We all enjoyed a morning spent behind the scenes at the local fire station, as the pups learned to ignore the sirens and the puppy walkers tried to ignore the lovely firemen.
Every day, we walked into town. On these outings we invariably had people coming up to say hello and ask about puppy walking. You will never be lonely with a puppy in tow!
Without Fail Everyone Asked “How Will You Give Her Back?”
I had obviously thought long and hard about this. A year is a long time and you become joined at the hip with your pup as you do everything together. But, I knew the rules and when the time came it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
It is nothing like losing your dog to old age or illness. Joni was just starting her life and happy to bounce off with whoever came to collect her. She didn’t give me so much as a backward glance.
Then, You Start All Over
So, now I have Sable, another black lab girl with a strong personality and mind of her own. I foresee hard work ahead!
For UK readers: if Puppy Walking appeals you can find details at guidedogs.org.uk. I believe there are similar schemes across the world both for guiding and assistance dogs.
Have you any thoughts about volunteering in retirement? Does volunteering to help train a guide dog appeal to you? Why or why not? Please join the conversation.