Hannah Burgess and Rory – CYP guide dogs service

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake…

Meet Hannah Burgess, who at time of writing is 14-years-old, and her guide dog Rory, who have been enjoying their first year of school together in Milton Keynes.

Hannah, who is one of seven children, was born with Albinism and as a result, her sight is severely impaired.

Hannah and RoryFollowing a three-year pilot, Guide Dogs removed the lower age limit for guide dog ownership in 2010, enabling people under the age of 16 to apply for a guide dog.  Hannah was one of the first young people in the country to benefit from this change. Hannah is the only army cadet in the country with a guide dog, and together they recently proudly marched through Newport Pagnell on Remembrance Sunday.

Lucy, Hannah’s mum, explains: “Hannah used a long cane from the age of six. We first heard of the benefits of guide dog ownership when we spoke to a Guide Dogs representative at an adventure holiday with VICTA Children in August 2010. Our discussion confirmed our thoughts; that a guide dog could help Hannah to gain further mobility and independence as well as help with social interaction and confidence.”

Hannah went on to train with the loveable golden retriever Rory over the Summer of 2011 and qualified in August, at the tender age of 13. Lucy said: “Hannah and Rory make such a cracking little double act. The bond they have built up is just incredible.”

Despite being severely sight impaired, Hannah has always attended mainstream schools, using large print and computers with assistive software to get stuck into her work. Hannah currently attends one of the largest secondary schools in the country and has been selected to be a mentor for the new ‘Year Sevens’. Lucy commented: “Rory’s been at the school for almost a year now and it’s as if he’s always been there. Hannah and Rory’s partnership has been completely accepted by everyone at the school and Rory is a fantastic influence in the classroom. He has a real calming influence on the class.”

Hannah added: "School is a lot, lot easier with Rory. Getting to and from school is so much easier too - he's such a big help. It's really crowded at school and Rory guides me through the crowds quickly and efficiently.”

An ambitious, passionate baker, Hannah has opted to take Food Technology and Business Studies as additional GCSEs. She hopes to own a bakery business when she’s older. Outside of school, Hannah never sits still either. A keen gymnast, Hannah is currently in training for the World Special Olympics. Hannah competes in vault, floor routines, beam and bar work and in her ‘spare time’, also enjoys a spot of trampolining. Rory attends the gym too, but covers his eyes with his paws as Hannah somersaults across the room.

Hannah and RoryHannah sums up the difference Rory has made: "The responsibility of looking after Rory is hard, but I really enjoy it and I feel it's a very important one. I think it's helped me to mature a bit too. I feel like Rory's always been around now. Life is so different with Rory. I just couldn't be without him now. Having Rory means I can go out by myself and have a life. I can go and see my friends."

To find out more about Guide Dogs’ mobility services, visit: www.guidedogs.org.uk/services.