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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Covid-19: Guide dog delays like 'losing eyesight all over again'

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Lucy Edwards and her dog Olga in the Radio 1 studio

A blind social media star said she could be waiting for years for a new guide dog because of delays connected with the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 25-year-old has used a guide dog since she was 17 and said she had lost her independence since her latest dog was retired four months ago.

She said it was like losing her “eyesight all over again”.

“It has really knocked my confidence that in a pandemic I don’t have my dog any more,” Ms Edwards, from Sutton Coldfield, said.

“I don’t feel comfortable going outside on my own.”

Lucy Edwards

She now relies on her cane and her sighted partner, but added she found it difficult to socially distance with just a cane and felt “scared” without the support of her dog Olga.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said the pandemic meant it had been forced to stop dog training for five months last year.

It said it trained and qualified 52 dogs in the Midlands in 2020, compared with 125 in 2019, and added the monthly figures showed a big impact in April.

While general dog training is continuing during the third England lockdown, with social distancing measures in place, some orientation and other work has stopped, along with puppy training classes.

West Bromwich marathon runner, Dave Heeley, who was appointed an OBE in the New Year’s Honours, has been waiting for a dog for more than two years.

“The dog is your best friend, your dog is your mobility and I don’t feel that from a stick,” he said.

Dave Heeley

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said over the past two years it had matched 80% of people with a guide dog within 16 months.

The charity currently has about 5,000 guide dogs working in the UK and within the next few years said it was targeting 1,000 new guide dog partnerships a year.

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