Nimmi first started volunteering for Guide Dogs in 2015 and has since raised six guide dog puppies. She was born and grew up in Bangalore, India, but has lived in Glasgow, Scotland since 1995 with her husband Stuart, a pilot, and their two teenage children. The family also have a pet black Labrador called Ike and a cat, an Egyptian Mau, called Ramon.
The puppies come to live with us when they are about eight weeks old and can stay until they are ready for the next stage in their lives, usually around 11-16 months old. All the puppies we’ve raised have their quirks and are all very different individuals. We’ve fallen in love with every puppy who has come through our home.
Our current puppy Glen is a yellow labradoodle and he’s very cute! He’s all legs and is quite tall. He’s a lovely, calm, good natured boy and he loves cuddles. It’s very easy to completely fall in love with him – and we have!
People often ask me two questions: How can we go through toilet training? And how can you even think about giving them back? I’m sure every Guide Dogs puppy raiser across the UK will back me up that both of these things can be difficult. It takes a certain someone to be a puppy raiser, but we do it because we love what we do, and we love the dogs. You also only need to speak to someone who has a guide dog to understand how important they are and the difference they make. To have a fully trained guide dog you need people to volunteer to raise the puppies – that’s enough motivation for me.
I couldn’t do it without the support and help of my family – all of them are as doggy daft as me! Puppy raising is part of our family life, we are all on board and consistent with their training. My daughter is at university now, but she’s also registered as a volunteer and when she comes home she can help out with taking Glen for walks.
All of my friends are so supportive as well, even the ones who weren’t dog lovers at first have ended up falling in love with the pups. I’m very involved with my local church, and they’ve welcomed all of my puppies. We take the puppies everywhere with us - to concerts or shopping, which is great for their socialisation.
It’s been really difficult during the pandemic and I do worry about the impact it will have on the puppies’ confidence. When we’re out walking and I see someone I know I always try to stop and chat (from a safe distance) so Glen knows not to be afraid of other people. My Guide Dogs Puppy Development Advisor has organised virtual puppy classes for us, and they’ve evolved so that we can now meet as a smaller group of puppy raisers who have puppies of a similar age. There are five of us with puppies who are about 4-5 months old and we now meet virtually each week.
I’ve met so many wonderful people through the charity. The Breeding Dog Holder of one of my puppies, Luna, organised a meet up at her house for all the puppy raisers of her litter. It was lovely for her to see how the puppies are all getting on and it was wonderful to meet other puppy raisers.
Now that my children are a bit older, I can be completely involved with Guide Dogs and my other interests – gardening, cooking and baking – which keeps me busy. Through puppy raising and fundraising for Guide Dogs I’ve met lots people who have benefited from the charity and who can now live their lives with confidence – it makes what I do even more meaningful. Volunteering gives me a sense of achievement and a feeling that I’m giving back to society. That’s a warm and happy feeling, and my life is much richer because of this charity.
In India, people with a vision impairment mainly have to rely on their families for support as there isn’t anything definitive in place so they can often live very limited or lonely lives. I’ve met so many people in the UK living full, happy, confident lives. I hope that people all over the world can one day experience the wonderful work, support and resources like Guide Dogs provides here in the UK.