Call to train British guide dogs – archive, 8 October 1934

8 October 1934: Owing to quarantine difficulties dogs trained abroad can not be imported into England, hence the need to train dogs in this countryDelegates of the Manchester and Yorkshire branches of the National Association of Blind Workers were welcomed on Saturday afternoon to their conference in Manchester by the Lord Mayor, Alderman Joseph Binns. One of the most interesting addresses was that by Mr. Musgrave Frankland, secretary of the Liverpool branch of the National Institute for the Blind, who spoke on “Guide dogs for the blind.” Mr. Frankland was the first blind person to use a guide dog in England. Germany, he explained, had State schools for the training of guide dogs; “L’oeil qui voit,” at Vevey, Switzerland, trained dogs for France and Italy, and there was also a school in the United States.

Owing to quarantine difficulties dogs trained abroad could not be imported into England, but the British Guide Dogs for the Blind Training Committee had been formed to train dogs in this country. The dogs, he said, were not trained in the ordinary way. It would be more correct to say that they were educated.

The Alsatian was the best dog in the world for the work. It was wrong to make pets of them. It was only when they became pets that they did savage things. Once it had been trained, a blind man could leave everything to the dog. A guide dog could not distinguish between the red and green lights of traffic signals, but that did not matter, because the dog followed the movement of the traffic itself, which was much more important.

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The Rev. David Griffiths, who presided, spoke of the kindness of sighted people to the blind, but he had one complaint which he made in the form of a suggestion. “People tell you,” he said, “that there are steps, but they do not tell you whether they are up or down.”
MP Andrew Gilzean is guided through the streets of Edinburgh by his Alsatian guide dog Lady, April 1935.

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MP Andrew Gilzean is guided through the streets of Edinburgh by his Alsatian guide dog Lady, April 1935. Photograph: Martin/Getty Images