Royal Mile walk with a Guide Dog

GUIDE DOG WEEK: Staff and volunteers from Guide Dogs Scotland gathered at Glamis Castle for the day,

GUIDE DOG WEEK: Staff and volunteers from Guide Dogs Scotland gathered at Glamis Castle for the day,

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THE GUIDE dogs were having a great time outdoors at the Glamis Castle event on Saturday, writes Hannah Messer.

Members of the public, owners of guide dogs and people who work at the Forfar centre were outside walking the Royal Mile, despite the wet weather, to raise awareness of both the blind and partially sighted.

The staff who were at the event, part of Guide Dogs Week 2012, were encouraging people to try sighted guiding walks, blindfold walks with dogs, short handle walks and interactive tasks with simulation spectacles.

The simulation spectacles demonstrated what it was like for people who suffered diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and retinitis pigmentosa. A blindfold was used to experience complete blindness.

There was a tent set up where visitors could pick up leaflets about the Guide Dogs and guess the name of a soft toy for a chance to win it.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to try out a walk with a dog whilst I was wearing a blindfold with Ian Flanigan.

Ian has been with Forfar Guide Dogs since 1973 and he put me at ease walking without my sight for 20 minutes. At one point I couldn’t find Jazz, the dog who was guiding me, although she was just by my side!

Walking with either a blindfold or the visual impairment spectacles definitely makes you appreciate what these people face everyday and how much of a help a guide dog is.

I met a woman called Marjorie Hughes, who had been blind since birth, and she had her fifth dog who was called James. She also works as a receptionist at the Forfar centre.

She said: “James has a lovely nature and is very willing to help.”

Guide Dogs rely heavily on donations as the organisation is not funded by the government and they also rely on their many volunteers which is why Guide Dogs Week is so important to raise awareness and funds.

During the week, Guide Dogs Scotland encourages members of the public to develop their own challenges to raise money for Guide Dogs and the activities don’t have to be complicated. People could get a group of friends together and have dinner in the dark, organise a karaoke party and sing in blind fold or organise a pub quiz with sensory rounds that people do in blindfold.

The Forfar centre is desperately looking for puppy walkers in the local area and anyone interested can contact the centre on 0845 372 7408 or you can find out more about the Guide Dogs and other events by visiting www.guidedogs.org.uk.