I worked in the Automotive Industry for 36 years with Rover before finishing up becoming Engineering Manager at BMW Plant Swindon. I was registered blind in March 2005 and took ill-health early retirement due to my blindness, caused by Retinal Dystrophy.
I found out what it is like to be one of a 180,000 visually-impaired people in the United Kingdom that never left home on their own. When I tried I finished up walking in to the road or bumping into lamp posts.
I realised I had to do something different, and so I decided to apply for a guide dog in July 2005. During the ten months I was waiting for a guide dog I lost my mobility, freedom, independence and confidence.
In May 2006, a black Labrador named Joy arrived at my front door as part of the matching process. We hit it off immediately and two weeks later we started our training together. It was the start of a truly wonderful partnership.
In June 2006 we qualified and I paid my 50p to take ownership of Joy and became a Guide Dog Owner (GDO).
At qualification, I was told that “Joy and I could go out tomorrow on our own”. It seemed very scary having to put your trust in a dog to take you on the routes that you have been trained on but I realised within two days that I could put my trust in Joy and did so for the rest of her short life. .
My wife Shirley, and I decided to start fundraising for Guide Dogs and in 2007 we started to do talks at schools and to community groups.
I became Chairman of Swindon Guide Dogs for the Blind and started the process of raising the awareness of the charity within Swindon and North Wiltshire.
In 2013 I celebrated five years as Chairman, during this period of time the branch had given talks to over 16,000 school children and people in community groups. We had raised just over £260,000 for the charity and campaigned locally for talking Buses, Safer streets, Elimination of Shared Surfaces, Exemption of VAT on assistance dog food and to Add Noise to Electric and Hybrid vehicles.
March 2013, I was presented with The Pride of Swindon Award which was recognition for what Joy and my wife Shirley did too. All I did was to hold onto the harness and went wherever Joy took me.
On May 6th 2013 we were shocked and devastated when Joy had to be put to sleep. She was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour in her intestines which was sadly inoperable.
Joy was working right up to her passing away, we went out on the previous day for our normal walk, she had a free run and we attended a family lunch and she showed no signs being ill. That summed up what Joy was like, she never thought about herself and always wanted to please.