A Pawsome Partnership with Guide Dogs

Gibson, a five-month-old German Shepherd-Golden Retriever cross, has been visiting Abbeyfield Winnersh every other week to supplement his training to become a full-time guide dog.

Gibson is accompanied by Sophie, a Puppy Development Supervisor for the South-East, and his owner Rakesh, who will have Gibson for just over a year before he moves on to more training with Guide Dogs. 

One of the residents, Rhona Nightingale - pictured below beside Gibson - is thrilled to be able to get to know Gibson. 

“I love being involved in the guide dog training,” she said. 

“I had a friend who had a guide dog, and it was the most amazing dog I've ever had contact with – although my dogs were also very well trained too! I've noticed Gibson is very obedient and will make a great guide dog in my opinion.” 

Gibson is in the early stages of controlling his excitable puppy ways, learning to greet people on command, settle again and not jump up, and he is also working on his recall. The residents and staff at Abbeyfield Winnersh all agree that he is already a lot more disciplined than most puppies. 

Rakesh believes that a care home is a great environment for Gibson to start his training, so he can get used to being around new and unfamiliar people, as well as different noises, and Abbeyfield Winnersh activity lead, Charlotte Richardson, has been organising Gibson’s visits for the home. 

Charlotte said, “Our residents are benefitting enormously from the experience as most of them love animals, especially dogs. 

“More importantly, it will hopefully give them a great sense of purpose and pride in helping to train a guide dog. They do such a life-changing job.” 

Care Home Manager, Sue Smart, added, “We are delighted to support with the puppy training.  Gibson has brought much joy to our residents, all of whom are living with advanced dementia. His visits support with their social interaction, anxiety, and sensory needs, and they are also so beneficial for those residents who are nonverbal. 

“We like to do our bit for the local community and see this as a great way forward.  We are planning to have a summer party and, as dogs are so instrumental here – with families bringing their own dogs in and our regular visits from a Pets as Therapy dog – our party will have a dog theme and an agility course as part of the day.” 

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