Donegal puppies begin journey to become Guide Dogs

THE first litter of Donegal Guide Dog puppies have started their journey to becoming a guide dog for a person who is vision impaired, or an assistance dog for a family of a child with autism.
This journey for the ten pups started last week when a group of ‘home socialisers’ took them for a week to introduce them to every day sounds and experiences such as television, vacuum cleaners and umbrellas.
Poppie, a yellow Labrador, who gave birth to the pups, lives with a family in Kilcar and her new arrivals have been named the ‘H Litter’ – Harry, Hope, Hugo, Honey, Hanna, Hunter, Hugh, Holly, Hazel and Heidi.
Erin McDonald, Irish Guide Dogs shared services supervisor, looks after puppy raising. She arrived in Donegal yesterday to introduce five of the dogs to their new first-time puppy raising volunteers. Irish Guide Dogs are placing the other five puppies in Dublin.
“This is a first for us. We have five families in Donegal who are willing to foster a puppy from the age of eight weeks to 12-15 months. It’s a pilot project for us and as we’re so far away from the centre (Cork) we’ll start off with five to six months and see how it’s going.
“This is a pilot project and if it goes well and it is successful we will look at placing more pups in Donegal,” she said.
The charity has its own breeding programme while the puppies are also sourced abroad from countries such as France, England and Croatia. The main breed is Labradors or Labrador/Golden Retriever cross breeds.
“Poppie is a Labrador and her puppies left her for the first time last week to go to home socialisers who, generally, take two pups each and slowly wean them away from one another to prepare them to go on to puppy raisers,” she said.
At approximately 14 months, the puppy will then move into the Training Centre in Cork with Irish Guide Dog’s highly skilled trainers and the hard work towards graduating as a guide dog begins.
The Irish Guide Dogs Donegal Branch thanked Poppie and her breeding stock family Christine, Martin, Laura and Aimee Byrne who cared for the dog and had their hands full with ten puppies.
Aimee Byrne said that she was both delighted and a little upset to see the ‘H litter’ moving on to start their next steps at becoming future Guide and Assistance dogs with the Irish Guide Dogs.
“Seven weeks ago Poppie welcomed ten gorgeous pups into the world. We have been blessed to be part of their journey and look forward to seeing their progress in the future.
“It’s great to see the curiosity already shining in their faces and I know it will only grow with them. Good luck in your journey Harry, Hope, Hugo, Honey, Hanna, Hunter, Hugh, Holly, Hazel and Heidi,” she said.

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