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                                                           VICTORIAN GUIDE DOG CENTRE



Tuesday October 8 was a beautiful sunny day in Melbourne and just perfect for our visit to the Guide Dogs Centre in Kew   About thirty or so of us were greeted by Merle, a volunteer guide and her friend Eddie, a lively black Labrador who, although he had failed  as a guide dog, was considered so sociable and loving that he was given the job of helping to show visitors around the Centre


In Australia there are around 500 guide dogs helping visually impaired people to find their way around   The dogs are also used to help those with acquired brain injuries, young children needing mobility assistance and even those who are unable to retrieve objects from the ground


We were told some fascinating anecdotes about these wonderful dogs, for instance their ability to recognize and locate which hotel room their owner is staying in    One dog went to the wrong room first   only because a few weeks earlier his owner had actually stayed in that particular room   He soon found the right room


We saw some adorable puppies and looked at the playground fitted out specially for them   Although these young pups can be fostered from approximately 8 weeks old to 14 months old I think it would be very, very hard for the foster parents to part with them   Many a tear has been shed, apparently


Just like us, the dogs go through a teenage phase  For them it is at about 12 months of age when they decide not to sit on command and generally act out probably they would slam doors and talk back if they could Like our children they generally become normal again, in their case only a few weeks later   a much easier process than with humans.  At least they don’t have facebook and unsuitable peers to influence them


We were shown the memorial garden where some of the dogs were remembered by their owners with special plaques   You could feel the emotion and love that their owners must have felt on the loss of their dear friends


One of our members hopefully asked if there was a waiting list to provide a home for those dogs which didn’t quite make the grade as Guide Dogs   Apparently there is no difficulty finding homes for these lovely creatures   the list is currently closed


After we had had a pleasant light lunch and cup of tea we were shown a short film introduced by Bud Tingwell which went into further detail about the rigorous training each dog must undergo  The motto is, Hasten Slowly and everything takes place in a calm unhurried way giving the animals every chance to go through the hurdles of training for what is a very responsible job indeed  


The service is available free to people of all ages with varying degrees of vision loss and these dogs certainly illustrate the description man’s best friend


Jane Johnson