Star gets used to life on the train

MOST puppies enjoy endless days of playing, cuddles and sleeping.

MOST puppies enjoy endless days of playing, cuddles and sleeping.

For guide dog in training Star it's now getting a little bit more serious - as she starts focussing on the vital role she has been bred to play.

Still as sweet as can be, well-known everywhere thanks to the Evening Star's appeal to raise the money for her training and breeding, and fussed over wherever she goes, the 23-week-old pup is growing fast and starting to get to grips with a range of experiences.

As a guide dog, she will be expected to remain calm and completely unfazed wherever she goes because she will be the eyes of her blind or visually-impaired owner - on public transport, in large crowds, theatres, not startled by sudden loud noises or spooked by other dogs.

This week she has added another new experience to her growing list - a trip on a train.

“It's really about repeating these different experiences over and over again,” said puppy walker Penny Parker, who looks after Star for her first year.

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“It's no good just going on a train or a bus once, we have to go again and again so she gets completely used to them.”

Mrs Parker says Star is making good progress, on par with the other guide dogs she has had.

“She is very much on the right track - she knows her name, and knows sit, stay, down, wait, come, and she responds to the whistle we use as part of the training.

“She can also run off lead now, and comes back!

“We have got past the stage where every piece of food on the ground has to be sniffed or eaten, and she is now paying attention and looking to see what people want her to do and is very nosy and alert, which are all good signs.

“Soon she will start learning left and right.”

People dropping food is a nightmare, as is chewing gum left stuck under tables in cafes and restaurants and which can be poisonous to dogs.

So far Star has got used to dustcarts, been in busy shopping centres to experience the hustle and bustle, to concerts and theatre shows, accomplished lifts and stairs, is used to travelling on buses, and been into busy schools to get used to the noise and activity in the corridors and assemblies.

After a year, she will leave for the second phase - much more rigorous training at guide dog school.

Here Star will learn to walk in a straight line in the centre of the pavement unless there is an obstacle; not to turn corners unless told to do so; stop at kerbs and deal with traffic; and judge height and width so her owner does not bump their head or shoulder.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED . . .

The fundraising for the vital work of Guide Dogs continues - as we aim to raise as much as possible for the charity's work.

We want the whole community to get involved and if you are organising a fundraising event for the appeal, then we want to hear so we can give it maximum publicity and help boost the amount raised.

So let us know what you are up to - get in touch with Richard Cornwell at the Felixstowe Newsdesk on 01394 284109 or the Ipswich Newsdesk on 01473 324788.

To donate to the appeal, please send cheques - made payable to the Guide Dogs - to Richard Cornwell, Evening Star, 172 Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, IP11 7DU.

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