How things first began, by Gill Sheppard, Chairman, Seeing Dogs

Readers of a certain age may remember a BBC Schools’ broadcast of that name. But we are not going back into prehistory, just to the final years of the last century!

At that time, several committee members of the Circle of Guide Dog Owners (COGDO) were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with how the guide dog movement was going in this country. We felt that it needed shaking up. Chris Parker discovered a dormant charity which still had ten thousand pounds in its accounts. She and Val Kinder, another COGDO committee member looked into taking over the charity whose name was ‘Mobility Aid and Guide Dog Alliance’. (I had occasionally seen adverts for it in a magazine published by the RNIB).

By August 2000 we were in a position to hold an inaugural meeting in London which was to have been chaired by Wally Kinder, who was kept from attending. As Chris knew that I would be present on the day in question, she asked me at short notice to chair the meeting and I agreed.

The big question was our name. The preferred option was to lose the ‘Mobility Aid’ part and call ourselves ‘Guide Dog Alliance.’ However, we foresaw trouble from a certain quarter and agreed that we would be wise to choose a different name in case circumstances forced us to change it. Ideas were brainstormed and the favourite was ‘Seeing Dogs Alliance’.

As sure as eggs are eggs, the autumn brought news from the quarter where we had anticipated trouble. Apparently, legal advice was allegedly being sought with a view prevent us getting started. Their lawyers had explained to them that there was nothing in UK law to stop a new charity from setting up in the same field of work as an existing charity. Oh dear! So, they tried. We could not use the preferred name because ‘Guide Dog’ had been registered as a brand name. My ‘Little Oxford Dictionary’ says: ‘guide dog, dog trained to lead a blind person.’ More of a generic term, than a brand name, in my opinion, but we agreed to use the name we have now for the sake of keeping the peace.

It is rather sad that an organisation which once had a proud reputation has now fallen into such disarray. Never mind. Whilst their star is declining, it leaves the field open for ours to be in ascendance.