Maddie Risingham (pictured), 26, from York, has been working in the Guide Dogs London team since January.
The animal behaviour and training graduate previously worked in kennels, and at a doggy day care company, so was well-versed in all things canine.
But it was the prospect of using her knowledge to help benefit people that attracted her to Guide Dogs.
She said: “I thought I knew a bit about guide dogs, but I don’t think you can have a total understanding of how a guide dog partnership works until you see it for yourself up close. I’ve always loved working with animals, but it was the prospect of combining that with people in such a varied role that made me go for it.”
Maddie is currently working with four dogs in early training, preparing them for life as a guide dog, but from next January she will also be responsible for “matching” – the special process of pairing someone with sight loss with a guide dog specifically suited to him or her.
At the moment, a typical day involves working with some of the London-based volunteers who board trainee guide dogs, to help bring them into the centre near Kings Cross each day. Maddie and the other trainers then work with the dogs on a series of short, fun sessions designed to hold their attention, as well as giving them practice walks in the harness and ample chill out time.
She added: “The thing that surprised me most when I moved down from York was that Guide Dogs had this amazing centre right in the heart of London, which you may not expect, and my favourite part so far has been getting to know the volunteers who look after our dogs. But I really can’t wait to start training dogs with people with sight loss, and seeing those life-changing partnerships in action.”
- This article first appeared in VT49.45 (11 November 2019 issue).