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All Aboard the Puppy Walking Express

With a bark and a whistle, the Severn Valley Railway's Guide Dogs' Express steamed out of Kidderminster, full of puppy walkers and their dogs on Wednesday, 29 October.

The special train, with its canine packed carriages, travelled to Bridgnorth to raise awareness of the important work of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association's volunteer puppy walkers and brood bitch holders.

Guide Dogs' puppy walkers care for and educate guide dog pups from six weeks of age until they are around a year old, when they return to the charity to begin their specialised guide dog training.

Volunteers teach basic obedience and get the puppies used to a home environment, noise and the bustle of towns. A young guide dog puppy is a companion for its temporary owners, who find it so rewarding to raise a dog who will one day give a blind person a new independence by acting as their eyes. Other volunteers - known as brood bitch holders - provide homes for guide dogs' breeding dogs.

Chris Dyson from Guide Dogs explains: "We are really grateful to the volunteers who so enthusiastically prepare puppies for their role as guide dogs. Wanting to acknowledge and raise awareness of their work, with the fantastic support of the Severn Valley Railway, we hope everyone had a journey to remember."

Further information on becoming a puppy walker or brood bitch holder, or to learn more about the work of Guide Dogs, phone 01926 651226.