By: Vanessa Todd - @wooferly_dufus
A few years ago, I adopted a young dog, but he wasn’t your standard yellow Labrador puppy.
He’d already been trained to walk slightly ahead of me, he was used to relieving himself in the back garden before he went for a walk, and he also knew his Green Cross code.
This is because Hunter spent the first few months of his life training to be a Guide Dog.
He was destined to be a life-changer. His career path was all mapped out — until blood tests at the vet’s revealed a potentially fatal condition - ACTH deficiency. If his very subtle symptoms are not spotted quickly, it could lead to Addisonian Crisis and ultimately, his death.
This made it impossible for him to be paired with someone with a sight impairment who would not easily be able to identify slight changes in his health or behaviour.
And so it was that after 23 months on a dead cert career path, Hunter found himself suddenly retired and desperately in need of a forever home.
On a first visit to see him at a Guide Dogs training centre near Manchester, his trainer told me she thought that star pupil Hunter would have been the easiest, quickest pup to be transitioned into work mode. As it turned out, he became the most difficult dog she’d ever been faced with having to re-home due to his rare medical condition.
I decided there and then to take him home.
From the first minute he stepped inside our home, he didn’t display many puppy-like tendencies. He looked around the house with world-weary eyes and a solemn resignation, already knowing what everything was and how he should react.
He didn’t run about half-cocked with his tongue lolling like a zany pup. He didn’t accidentally wee when he got excited, he didn’t chew, nip, or chase the cat. His Guide Dogs dog tag displayed the name Hunter 23756 a testament to his army-like regimented life. And, without a mission, he was a little lost.
However, even though he’s on steroids for the rest of his life and will need regular check-ups, he’s now taking part in many events and sponsored fund-raisers in aid of his relatives back at Guide Dogs HQ. So in a way he’s still a life-changer.
Around 30% of the puppies that are trained to be Guide Dogs don’t make the grade and need re-homing. To find out more information about adopting a withdrawn guide dog or to sponsor a guide dog puppy, visit guidedogs.org.uk
Ness Todd has been a journalist since the 90s. She is currently writing a children’s book about her much-loved Labrador. Hunter the Failed Guide Dog and Other Success Stories is a collection of positive tales for kids about pets whose failure in one field has led to unexpected success in another. Follow them over on Instagram @wooferly_dufus