Blog by Jacq Kelly, Media and Public Affairs Manager here at RoS
There’s been a lot of love shown towards Hillary, RoS’ guide dog extraordinaire, since she and I started working at Meadowbank House in May last year.
When I arrived on my first day she already had her own bowl. A bed that looks comfier than mine followed shortly after, as did many much appreciated toys to keep her occupied through the day.
She even has her own staff pass (I am working on getting her a Civil Service pension, but I realise that’s maybe asking a bit much!). We are both well looked after, and it’s hugely appreciated.
Dogs tend to get a lot of attention, but I think the reason people especially respond so well to service animals is the appreciation for the incredible difference that they can make to the lives of the people they are in partnerships with.
Every year, the Guide Dogs for the Blind ask service users and supporters to send in their nominations for awards in a variety of categories, and this year they have introduced a category for Guide Dog of the Year. I’ve nominated Hillary for the immense difference she has made to me. In many respects she has turned my life around.
While a lot of people get that guide dogs help people get about and remain physically safe, I’m not sure that everyone realises the extent to which service animals help give their owners back their self-esteem, genuine feelings of safety, and their mental wellbeing.
Since starting my working partnership with Hillary a year and a half ago I have experienced all of these things. I’m not only able to get to places that were previously less accessible – I also feel like I can manage it with her at my side without experiencing overwhelming anxiety.
While the primary benefit is that I can go and do things, and see my pals, get dinner out etc. there is the additional plus of feeling empowered and independent again. She makes me feel safe, has restored my confidence, and when she isn’t working she is a delight to spend time with. I never feel lonely when I am with her.
Vote for Hillary
I think she deserves a little medal for all of that. And also because, like all guide dog parents, I think that my dog is the best of all of them (even when she has just eaten my dinner). If you would like to nominate Hillary, or any other Guide Dog friend that you might have, please do so on the Guide Dogs website. Nominations are open until 12pm on Friday 3 August.