Our guide dog owners

Barbara hits 50 Year Milestone of Guide Dog Ownership

Barbara CreightonThis coming January Lancaster resident Barbara Creighton celebrates a major milestone of 50 years of guide dog ownership. Barbara has enjoyed working with seven guide dogs over the years and admits they have helped her to turn her life around.

Barbara was born blind and before getting her first guide dog she had no real mobility skills. She struggled even to make the short journey to the local shops and would have to rely on her mother for help with getting around, otherwise she was housebound and isolated. This all changed when at the age of 19 Barbara trained with her first guide dog Misty.

Barbara found things a struggle at first, learning to follow Misty correctly and putting her complete trust in her to get around safely. Barbara said "I was petrified to start with. It was a very gradual process of becoming confident on one quiet route first, then building up to going into busier places over a period of time. But it was unbelievably liberating when I was able to go into town alone."

Although it was a slow process for Barbara to build her confidence up; her guide dogs have enabled her to attend the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford and really turn her life around giving her greater prospects and increased confidence and self-worth.

Barbara felt that she really had clinched her freedom with her second guide dog, a German Shepherd called Ailban; this is when she began going regularly into Lancaster town centre. Barbara used to go to the Thornton's chocolate shop and had previously been there with her Mother and with her guide dog, but she had never ventured much further. It was only after her Mother had encouraged her to find other landmarks like the market or chemist shop that she started venturing further afield and enjoying the greater freedom that Ailban gave her.

This new found confidence led to good things for Barbara, she became a proof-reader for the National Library Service and enjoyed a successful career. When her parents passed away she remained independent because of her guide dogs.

Each of Barbara's six previous guide dogs: Misty, Ailban, Max, Lorna, Paige and Uri have touched her life in a special way. Barbara's latest best friend is Ramble, a Yellow Labrador cross Golden Retriever, who Barbara has just qualified with. Ramble will enable Barbara to enjoy her current busy lifestyle including teaching Braille at Galloway's Society for the Blind and travelling around the country not forgetting visits to her favourite chocolate shop.

Barbara has seen some changes having guide dogs for 50 years, as the organisation has grown they have become better at offering aftercare to make sure that each guide dog works as well as it can. Barbara said "To put it in a nutshell, Guide Dogs have given me a life. If I didn't have a guide dog I would have been a prisoner. People don't realise if you cannot go out just how awful that can be".

Alan Roberts siting in the Lake District with a German shepherd guide dogAtherton resident, Alan Roberts got his first guide dog in 1964 from The Bolton Guide Dog Training Centre and this year hit a remarkable milestone of 50 years of guide dog ownership. This has helped Alan achieve things he never thought possible. During this time Alan has enjoyed seven guide dogs, all German Shepherds; Major, Trixie, Janson, Casper, Edmond, Arthur and his latest best friend is Seamus.

Alan has a progressive condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which meant that his sight began deteriorating in his youth. He had tried to kid friends, family and himself that his sight wasn't too bad, but By 20 years old he was left with very little useful vision. During his late teens Alan and his friends were keen cyclists and walkers enjoying what the Lake District had to offer; but when his friend’s progressed onto motorbikes and cars Alan's eye condition prevented him from joining in and he was left out of the crowd.

Alan took the path of Industrial College and his first job was in a factory assembling motors for hairdryers. It was shortly after this time Alan trained with his first guide dog Major, This made getting around and to and from work easier.  Alan remembers "how happy it made my mother, knowing her only son had independence". 

With his second guide dog Trixie, Alan began walking in the Lake District with friends, enjoying the fells and the great outdoors. They would do a ambitious 16 mile route regularly, around Derwentwater and surrounding fell paths. After five years of doing this route with Trixie and friends, Alan got to know it extremely well and eventually Alan and Trixie were able to complete this route alone and bask in the glory of Lake District solitude.  This was something that Alan never thought possible before owning a guide dog.

Alan's confidence grew and he set up his own business employing a number of people. Now at 73 he is finally slowing down a little to enjoy retirement but not too much as he still volunteers for Guide Dogs. Alan said, "You can almost become complacent being a guide dog owner for 50 years, recently my dog was off work for a while recovering from an operation. I then remembered what it was like to be without one, I really owe a lot to Guide Dogs. There really is nothing better than walking around Derwentwater, just me and my dog at six in the morning, listening to the sound of the birds singing echoing off the mountains".