A 19-year-old girl from Wales adopts a puppy to become a guide dog. This makes her the youngest specialist dog handler in the country. She can count on her parents to help her in her beautiful mission.
The dog on the photo is Lily. She is only 13 weeks old and has only recently discovered her new home, but Lilly is already in her element at this small farm in Abergavenny, South East Wales, with chickens and sheep. This young black-coated Labrador Retriever will leave in a year to join a new family, the family of a blind man.
Lilly was chosen as a guide dog for the blind. At the moment, she is only at the very beginning of her apprenticeship, which is provided by Rowena Smith. At 19, the latter became the youngest guide dog trainer in the United Kingdom by volunteering to greet Lilly.
Her role is to help the dog learn its future profession. His mother Sheila Kerry and father help him in this noble mission.
Upon completion of this 12-month phase, the pup, which will become an adult, will be returned to the Association of Guide Dogs for the Blind. The organization will pool their training and award it to a visually impaired or blind person.
A moment Rowena Smith is sure to dread, even if she says she’s psychologically ready to handle it. “Some say it will be difficult to get her back when the time comes to continue her education, but I think everything will be fine. You know from the very beginning that you are not holding,” she explains about this.
Lilly is making notable progress. Rachel Lord, educational consultant at Guide Dogs, says the puppy and its handler have already excelled at their first exercise, including running in the big box. “She was great on a leash and enjoyed discovering this new place,” she says.
The specialist adds that Rowena Smith conveys a lot of confidence to Lilly and constantly wags her tail, which is a sign that she is comfortable in everything she does.