Hester and Pickle

Growing up Hester always knew she didn’t want her sight loss to hold her back. And it hasn’t! But being very sporty, and loving the outdoors, using a long cane just didn’t feel right. So at 14 she made a big decision to apply for a guide dog. Now with Pickle by her side there’s nothing she can’t do!

With Pickle I have independence. It’s a dynamic and active partnership and I just feel more me.
Hester, guide dog owner

Since she was a child, Hester has always been active. Her mum says she always liked to run, get mucky at forest school and do everything as fast as she could. Hester was born with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) a rare eye disease meaning she has been blind since birth. But her family never wanted that to restrict her. “After Hester’s diagnosis at six months old, top of my priorities was to make sure her difficulties with her vision were just that. An inconvenience. They don’t matter and they don’t change her outcome” says mum Sarah.

Aged seven the family were put in contact with Guide Dogs and applied for a buddy dog. Describing themselves as a ‘dog family’, Dash the buddy dog was a perfect addition and helped Hester keep her independence while enjoying outdoor activities.

But Hester always dreamed of having a guide dog. At 14 she applied and the day after finishing her GCSEs Hester started her training with Pickle, a five year old golden retriever Labrador cross. And the difference of having Pickle in her life was instant. Mum Sarah says “it feels as though Hester has grown a foot taller, she’s more confidently going at speed, growing in confidence and stature. And that was overnight with the introduction of Pickle.”

I held onto that harness and Pickle just whizzed off and I was like yeah, it’s meant to be like that.
Hester, speaking of her first walk with Pickle

Hester and Pickle completed their training at home, whilst being filmed for the Channel 5 series 'Puppy School for Guide Dogs'. It was clear from early on they would be a brilliant partnership. “One day she [Pickle] swept around the corner without me telling her and it was just right. We didn’t need to speak to each other.” But their bond goes beyond guiding. Hester describes Pickle as an empathetic dog, sensitive to her emotions and there to support her through migraines.

Now the pair have qualified there is no stopping them. Hester and Pickle will be starting sixth form in September, and then hopefully heading off to university one day. And that won’t be the only travelling Pickle will do. Hester is a talented alpine skier and hopes to represent her country at the Paralympics one day.

Having Pickle has given me choices. I could probably do things with a cane but having a guide dog has given me choice in how I manage things I want to do. It’s lovely.
Hester, guide dog owner