Posted 5 months ago ago
By Rebecca Astill
When you rehome a guide dog, there are a lot of things you are warned about. Guide dogs walk about three miles per day at their owner’s feet rather than getting regular walks, which can cause hip problems and weight gain. You are warned they may not last longer than two years or so. Guide dogs grow up effectively as only children and may struggle with the social aspect of joining a family with other pets.
As valid as these warnings are, Oliver, affectionately known as Ollie, was the absolute antithesis. We adopted him in 2010 when he was 10 and a half. He was slightly overweight, but this was more due to the bacon sandwiches he was secretly fed at the office. Ollie lived until he was 15 with the sole symptom of old age, having lived happily alongside dogs, cats, puppies in his last year, and a family of six.
Briony Archer, the rehoming dogs lead at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, affirms that every dog’s experience is individual. She says, “Our dogs are bred and raised to be adaptable. Just like us, retirement is a chance to relax and we’re sure they enjoy putting their paws up!”
The rehoming process
The crew, from left to right: Monty, Cassie, Lottie and Ollie digging into the same food tray
When you rehome a guide dog there are two routes you can take. Either the owner of the guide dog can choose a friend or relative to rehome, or the Guide Dogs Association can place the retired dogs into homes. In both instances there is a vetting process whereby representatives from the association visit your home to ensure it is safe for the dog.
Ollie’s owner was concerned about where to place him; she had had family offer but they all worked full time. Guide dogs are used to constantly being around someone, and therefore the Guide Dogs Association insists that retired dogs should not be left alone for longer than four hours within a 24 hour period.
My dad offered, and before he had really had time to ask the rest of the family, we had another dog. Luckily, we’re an animal mad family so Ollie was welcomed with open and over-excited arms.
When the Guide Dog Association representatives visited our home, our golden retriever at the time, Monty, rested his head on my mum’s lap. With that gesture of affection and comfort, it was obvious that we were the right fit for another dog. All that was left to do was sign the contract which said the Guide Dogs Association could buy Ollie back at any point if they heard reports of bad treatment. We paid a whole £1 for him, purely to make the contract enforceable and valid.
After Monty and Lottie died, it was up to Ollie to train the new puppies (mostly in napping)
Ollie adored family life. He galloped on walks, loved being off the lead and could often be found lying by the Aga with our two other dogs, Monty and Lottie, and our cat Cassie. One thing he never quite lost was he didn’t like getting his paws dirty, in proper townie dog style. He even avoided puddles on walks!
Sadly, we lost our two other dogs in the same weekend while away. When we returned home, Ollie ran around the house looking for them, unable to accept that his newly found brother and sister had gone. This was true testament to how he treasured family life and loved his retirement.