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Learning About Life with Guide Dogs

Monday, 01 February 2016

Girls in Year 8 were delighted to meet Toni Forrest and her guide dog Quilla. Toni came into School to give an interesting talk about Guide Dogs and the difference her four dogs have made in her life.

Recently, the girls have been learning what it might be like to be visually impaired. They explored this by completing a series of challenges – from cutting up food and pouring drinks, to copying work onto their iPads to fun activities like painting each other’s nails – while wearing blindfolds or glasses which simulate a type of visual impairment, some of which were more severe than others. Although they had fun, this also raised their awareness of the difficulties faced by people living with a visual impairment or without sight.

Toni was able to tell them more from her own perspective: she lost her sight just before her twenty-first birthday. She talked to pupils about what it is really like to live without sight or with partial sight, and it was great for them to hear first-hand and have some of their questions answered.

She also talked about the Guide Dogs charity and the work they do to train dogs to assist people who have visual impairments. It was really interesting to hear about the training process, from the puppies receiving basic house-training through to advanced guide dog training and finally becoming qualified, and the many different people and volunteers involved in this process. In addition, Toni discussed the different types of dogs that are used and why, from Golden Retrievers and Labradors, to larger German Shepherds for taller people, to Standard Poodles which are suitable for people with allergies.

She also talked about the four guide dogs she has owned, the latest of which is Quilla, who accompanied Toni on her visit. It was really lovely for the girls to hear about the close bonds that developed between Toni and each of her guide dogs, and about their different personalities.

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Toni and Quilla with the Year 8 Charity Representatives

Toni and Quilla with the Year 8 Charity Representatives

Toni talked about the harness that guide dogs wear as part of her presentation

Toni talked about the harness that guide dogs wear as part of her presentation