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Barbara hits 50 Year Milestone of Guide Dog Ownership

24 Dec 2014

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".