Mhairi Thurston and guide dog Wanda, the winner of
The Guide Dog of the Year
Guide dog Wanda, who has transformed the life of her owner Mhairi Thurston and those of her three small children, has won the Guide Dog of the Year.
The super dog, who beat off stiff competition from fellow guide dogs across the UK, was singled out for her outstanding loyalty, devotion and flexibility in leading such an incredibly full life. Besides guiding her owner Mhairi, Wanda juggles helping care for Mhairi's three small children with doing the shopping and running other errands!
Mhairi, 43, from Dundee, says her world was turned upside down when she began to lose her sight four years ago. Mhairi felt so vulnerable she hardly ventured out alone. But Wanda changed all that, making Mhairi's everyday life much easier and giving her the confidence to take up new challenges and interests.
"Losing your sight is an incredibly isolating experience," Mhairi explained.
"I left my job as a teacher and I lost all my confidence. I went from being very much part of the community to feeling like a complete outcast. Getting Wanda has completely transformed my life and she has helped me feel like part of society again."
Wanda, a labrador retriever cross, was presented with the award at a ceremony at the Kennel Club in London on Thursday 9 September. Organised by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, the awards scheme aims to pay tribute to the work of the UK's 5,000 guide dogs. The competition was judged by a panel of judges including representatives from the Kennel Club and Our Dogs magazine.
Wanda's busy daily schedule sees her leading Mhairi and her three small children to school down country lanes. She then runs the playground gauntlet of the nursery where the youngest child is dropped off. Next Wanda often takes Mhairi into town to do the shopping or helps her with other errands. Wanda is back on duty when the school bell rings to collect all the children and then help take them to their after school activities which range from ballet, gymnastics to swimming lessons.
Heroic Guide Dog of the Year
Guide dog Voss was awarded the Heroic Guide Dog of the Year for an act of bravery, which could have saved the life of his owner Ian Weston.
The 3-year-old labrador retriever cross prevented his owner Ian Weston from getting off a train when Ian mistakenly thought it had arrived at the station. This stopped Ian, who had opened up the train doors and commanded Voss to go forward, from falling down a huge drop to an open track. Moments after Voss defied his owner and then forcibly pushed Ian back into the carriageway, an Intercity train whizzed by.
Ian, 51, from Basingstoke, explains:
"Voss, my hero, saved my life. If Voss had obeyed my commands I cannot begin to think of the tragic consequences. Voss went beyond the call of duty and I will be eternally grateful to him for saving my life, he is my devoted friend and loving companion."
Ian Weston and guide dog Voss, the winner of The Heroic Guide Dog of the Year
Life Changing Guide Dog of the Year
Guide dog Robyn, who has transformed the life of her owner Ruth Bending, has been crowned the Life Changing Guide Dog of the Year. Robyn has not only supported her owner Ruth through serious illness, but has helped her embark upon a more independent life.
Ruth lost her sight to Multiple Sclerosis in 1998, and found she was virtually housebound; only going out when she could rely upon the help of others. All that changed when she got Robyn in 2000 and Ruth has never looked back since. The 26-year-old from Llanishen in Cardiff started a college course, began to do voluntary work and has moved into a flat of her own to live independently. But in 2002 the trainee counsellor suffered a major relapse and spent three months in hospital. Throughout this time Robyn visited Ruth every day and helped inspire her recovery.
" Robyn is not only a very good working dog, she is also a great friend and she has helped me through many difficult times. She has also increased my confidence no end.
"When I was in hospital the doctors thought I wouldn't walk again but Robyn really inspired me to get back on my feet."
Ruth Bending and her dog Robyn, the winner of The Life Changing Guide Dog of the Year