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Dublin: 8 °C Friday 10 July, 2020
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'You know eventually they'll be leaving you' - what it's like to train an Irish guide dog puppy

Meet Quigley.

THIS IS QUIGLEY the puppy.

He’s about ten weeks old and one day, he’ll change someone’s life.

When I go missing at home I can be found on this Source: Facebook

Quigley is currently in training to become a coveted guide or assistance dog to one of the many people on waiting lists across the country.

He currently lives with Linda O’Reilly and her family in Dalkey. He’s been with them about a month and will stay with them for at least another year.

Probably a question Linda is asked most frequently is how hard it is to say goodbye to the dogs.

You know eventually the white van is going to show up outside your house to take them away.
But even though it’s hard to say goodbye the difference you know you’re making is staggering.

Quigley is Linda’s second dog she’s taken on as a ‘puppy walker’, which is the term used for those people who train and socialise these dogs in the first 12-14 months of their lives.

Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish... - Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind | Facebook Source: Facebook

Linda and her family also hosted Quigley’s mother Molly when she was a puppy. They took Molly in three years after losing their beloved pet Labrador Harley at the age of eleven.

We missed having a dog, but weren’t really sure if we could commit to another 12-14 years, so this seemed like the perfect option.

The O’Reillys were perfect candidates as they fit the main criteria for taking on a puppy.

  • Someone at home all the time
  • No children under five years old
  • A suitable house and garden

Linda’s job is to socialise Quigley. She brings him out and about, into stores and shopping centres, and checks that he’s not easily distracted by traffic.

Sometimes a coordinator from Irish Guide Dogs from the Blind is with her, to check up on his progress.

She teaches him how to sit and stand still, and even to go to the toilet on command.

You bring the puppy out to the garden every hour and say “busy busy”. If a blind person has a guide dog it needs to be able to control when the dog goes to the toilet.

Source: DailyEdge.ie/YouTube

After the dogs’ socialising period they move on to the Irish Guide Dogs HQ in Cork where they receive between six and eight months further training. Handlers there decided if the dog will be a guide or assistance dog.

They are then matched with a child or adult who comes to train with them at the HQ.

Molly, Quigley’s mother, actually went on to become a breeding dog due to her exceptional temperament. She lives as a family pet in Kerry and her most recent litter are now all being trained.

Ideally litters are born every 6-8 weeks, and each is given an identifying letter. In Quigley’s case it was Q.

Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish... - Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind | Facebook The Q Litter Source: Facebook

Here’s Quigley with his brother Quasi arriving in Dublin to begin training:

Source: DailyEdge.ie/YouTube

Linda says she doesn’t know if she’ll have contact with Quigley when he eventually moves on.

I know a lady who’s had three dogs and she knows where each dog has gone. Some people get pictures and cards and stay in touch. But in the end it’s all about the owner and the dog.

A few weeks ago before Quigley arrived, Linda met a woman in a pet store who saw her stocking up on puppy toys.

The woman had an assistance dog in her car belong to her severely autistic daughter and invited Linda to met the dog.

She said her daughter didn’t speak until the dog arrived in their home. It’s amazing what a difference it can make.

Out and about

Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish... - Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind | Facebook Source: Facebook

Quigley wears his yellow jacket when he’s out and about, and Linda says people approaching them isn’t too much of a distraction.

You have to judge when it’s okay for somebody to say hello. I had Quigley in a grocery store on his lead the other day and afterwards we sat on a bench outside for a while and some children came over to see him. He’s not in full training yet so I said it was okay.

Quigley will cost €38,000 euro in total to breed, train and support throughout his life. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind pay for his upkeep when he’s with the O’Reillys.

The association receives 80 per cent of its funding from the public and is always on the look out for families or individuals who think they might be able to become a puppy walker.

There are long waiting lists of people who are blind or in need of assistance hoping to be matched with a dog.

If you’d like to get involved you can check out the application form here.

Meanwhile, Quigley’s story is the subject of his very own Facebook page. You can follow his progress as he prepares to move onto the next stage of his journey.

Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish... - Quigley, puppy in training for The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind | Facebook Source: Facebook

Thanks to Kevin Macken for the heads up about Quigley

Could you give a puppy a loving home for a year before it becomes a guide dog?

Opinion: Losing my sight at 23 was traumatic, but my dog is with me every step of the way

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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