I was prompted to call Guide Dogs because I was really struggling to leave my home independently and was experiencing a great deal of anxiety and difficulty navigating my way around safely. I didn't feel confident using my long cane and was barely leaving my flat unless I really had to.
After making the initial contact, I had a phone assessment in which the whole process was explained to me. I then had a home visit for a further conversation and went out with the assessor to look at my mobility and the difficulties I was experiencing.
Following that I went for a walk with a guide dog in my local area and answered questions. I was then told within a very short period of time that my application had been successful and that I was now on the list for a guide dog.
Throughout the process I was met with kindness, understanding and empathy. The whole application from beginning to end felt very professional but also very friendly and compassionate.
I was offered the opportunity to have some long cane training with Ginette to improve my cane skills, increase my confidence and independence, and learn the routes I would be doing once I was matched with a dog. Ginette called me very quickly to arrange our first session and was very friendly and warm on the phone.
The training with Ginette was literally life-changing for me from the very first session and although I was extremely anxious about going out the first time Ginette supported me with empathy, kindness and understanding.
It was in the summer and where I live can get extremely busy and crowded with holiday makers. Ginette picked up on how difficult I found it to be out, but her encouragement and the way she taught me to use my cane over several sessions was incredible.
To begin with we concentrated on the route to my parent's house and she was able to show me alternative places to cross the road and alternative ways to go which were much safer, less stressful and easier to navigate. She quickly picked up on how much I tried to hide whilst out with my cane and taught me how to use it skilfully and confidently so I could walk boldly through both busy and quiet areas.
With these new skills I became more visible to others which really helped and it was incredible how many more people moved out of my way, rather than me trying to dodge them very unsuccessfully!
We also went into cafes on two occasions as this was something I was very anxious about and had stopped doing completely. Ginette listened to my worries and fears and was very supportive with the layout of the premises, toilet facilities and any obstacles. Each session was completely at my pace and what I felt I needed support with including cane training on stairs, steps and using crossings safely.
I really enjoyed the sessions and looked forward to learning more skills and gaining more confidence as we progressed. it was also really good fun and we laughed for most of the sessions which made the learning much easier and helped to diffuse my anxiety considerably. I felt very safe during the sessions and was able to reinforce the routes between sessions and if I found any difficulties, we then repeated the route.
Ginette also taught me how to use an app on my phone to help with lots of different things which has really helped in so many ways.
I feel much more confident using my cane and now go out most days on the routes we learnt together. I still find it difficult at times because no matter how skilled I feel now the cane still has its limitations for me. I prefer the mobility and independence a dog brings. Walking with a dog is much more fluid and I feel more confident as the dog moves around obstacles in a much smoother way.
I am very grateful for the support I have received so far and look forward to being matched in the future and the subsequent training. As an organisation you do so much and I am so thankful.
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Being a Sighted Guide for Guide Dogs means helping someone with sight loss get out and about in their local community. It means increasing someone’s confidence, independence and freedom to enjoy more of what they love. And in some cases, being a Sighted Guide means changing someone’s life and making their dreams come true.