Our guide dogs mums and dads are at the heart of our service. So when we heard about Willow and her unexpected passing, to honour her life we wanted to share her story and the wonderful legacy she left.
Willow was a beautiful, gentle German shepherd whose wonderful temperament and bill of good health made her the perfect candidate for a guide dog mum or, in our terminology, a brood bitch.
When she was placed with her holder family, Steve and Lesley, their three children and two Labradors all fell in love with her - and she adored them too. When out on family walks Willow loved free running but she'd never go out of sight and acted as mum by keeping the children together. She hated it if one of them ran off playing!
During her time as a guide dog mum, Willow had four litters of healthy, adorable puppies.
Lesley says: "She was a fantastic mum, happy to let us and our children cuddle the puppies as soon as they'd been born."
Willow was approaching retirement in January 2012, but tragically she died very suddenly leaving a huge hole in the family's life. Lesley said: "It was an honour and privilege to have Willow in our lives. Homing a brood bitch is a wonderful way to have a dog; apart from having puppies she was our pet."
The family now have a stud dog, another German shepherd, Elvis. Lesley continues: "He's a clown, and loves anyone especially our three children. Having Elvis has helped fill the huge gap Willow left. He'll never be the same as Willow, but his eyes look at you as deeply as hers did and I know he loves us as much as Willow loved us."
16 people with sight loss have been given the gift of independence through a guide dog thanks to Willow’s legacy. If this is something that resonates with you, you may be interested to know that two out of every three guide dogs brought into this world are made possible by gifts in Wills.
Please consider leaving a gift in your Will