Trainee guide dogs at Leamington are to face a new challenge; navigating a maze, designed to develop their physical and mental agility. It was officially opened and put to the test last month.
Based at the town's guide dog training school at Edmondscote Manor, themaze allows dogs to have fun and relax, helping to enhance their focus during more traditional types of training.
The project has been designed with a local community focus. Offenders supervised by Warwickshire Probation Area helped construct the maze as part of their 'unpaid work orders'.
Martyn Dalman, community payback officer for Warwickshire Probation explains: "The offenders have learnt new skills; they can also see who will benefit from the maze and feel rightly proud of their achievements."
Local building merchants BPS donated materials used to construct the maze, helping to make it cost effective for Guide Dogs. One of the additional highlights within this project is a large concrete tunnel for the dogs to climb over and run through; this was provided by Jewson.
Money needed to fund the project was partly raised by Birmingham guide dog owner and professional musician Steve Wicketts, who organised a rock 'n' roll evening.
Further funds were donated by the family of charity volunteer Dave Harris, who was tragically killed in a road accident. The money raised in Dave's memory has been used to purchase equipment for a 'relaxation' room, where dogs are prepared for their next training session.
Sarah Miller, dog care and welfare manger at Leamington said: "Guide Dogs is delighted with the maze, and the fantastic support of local people and companies in turning a dream into reality.
"It's essential that trainee guide dogs are relaxed and focussed as they learn the instincts and routines needed to be the 'eyes' of blind and partially sighted people. We've wanted to develop the maze for some time, but it's only become possible thanks to local donations of money and resources - it's a real community effort to improve the training environment for guide dogs to-be."