Lead On Magazine – February 2024

From the editor:

Happy New Year to you all. Here is hoping that 2024 will be a happy and healthy year for us all. In addition, we hope that it is a bumper year for funds, puppies, partnerships and above all, a prominent increase, in the guide dog world, for The Seeing Dogs Alliance.

First of all, apologies for a ‘maxima culpa’ in the last addition. The Chairman’s Report was by Gill Sheppard not Gill Shepherd. Think the dogs had gone to my head!

With regards to this addition of ‘Lead On’, you will learn how our puppies and dogs in training are doing and of a new partnership. Moreover, we have news of what some of our qualified dogs have been up to.

We hear about the wonderful efforts people are going to in raising funds and ensuring the name of ‘The Seeing Dogs Alliance’ gets more well known.

Additionally, we learn how the use of Social Media, including our new Instagram account, can enhance our support and future funds. There is a reminder about ‘Give as you Live’, our Just giving page and other ways to fundraise.

You can also read a fascinating article about dogs’ sixth senses. ‘Spooky!’

Enjoy your read.

Jane Anderson

Updates on Trainee Puppies

Rosie by Margaret Atkins (Puppy Raiser) – written Dec 23

I really love going in the car, on buses, and sometimes on the train, where I just lie down and usually have a little sleep. Recently. I have been invited into Esme’s school, (Esme is Margaret’s granddaughter), to teach them all about what it takes to become a Seeing Dog and how we are trained to look after a blind person. I am really looking forward to that as I really love being with children. Esme calls me her little sister and brings all her friends round to play with me.
I am even going to the cinema soon to see ‘Charlie & The Chocolate Factory’ with Esme and her friends. I have to remember that chocolate is very bad for dogs and could make them very ill. Recently, I have been especially drawn to men with beards so I can’t wait to meet Father Christmas! I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Lots of love from me, Rosie and all my Atkins family.

Sky by John Grave
The charity is pleased to be Puppy walking Sky. She is a lovely, bright, intelligent 6mth old pup who enjoys learning new tasks but also having lots of fun.

Updates of Trainee Seeing Dogs

Cora by John Grave
Cora is learning the basics of walking in harness, maintaining concentration, sitting at kerbs and dealing with obstacles. She is happy to tackle new elements and enjoys working with titbit rewards.
In the New Year, we hope to tackle traffic work and more challenging aspects of guiding. Cora also needs to be spayed.

Sybil by Sue Scott
Sybil continues to progress in her training and adapts to new areas as well as her familiar local routes. She did have a break when she was spayed but has recovered well and is once again enjoying her training and pleasure walks. Her small size is great for public transport. She has been introduced to busier conditions and is taking on more responsibility for guiding
decisions, stopping at the roads and avoiding obstacles. She loves to locate things, as she’s reassured, she will receive a piece of her food allowance. Like any typical Labrador she loves food! In the new year, I will be looking to identify her new owner, so I can tailor the remaining of her training time towards their needs.

New Partnership

Lynn and Amber
By Sue Scott
The charity is delighted to welcome Lynn, with her newly qualified Seeing Dog ‘Amber’. Lynn used to be a Guide Dog owner and brings with her a lot of handling experience to help Amber settle in and succeed. Amber was puppy walked by Margaret Atkins, who always produces lovely dogs for the charity.

Good luck Lynn and welcome to Seeing Dogs.

Some Qualified Seeing Dogs on their Adventures

A Salty Sea Tail By John Grave

Is there no end to our dogs talent’s. Recently, Terry White decided to ‘splash’ out. He bought himself a boat! A long-held itch, that he has now been able to scratch. With a mooring on the Essex coast, Terry didn’t know who should captain the ship. It became obvious, when a Salty Sea dog called Winston took Terry straight to the boat, on the first time of asking. He obviously fancied the role and now both Terry and Winston can be seen sporting espadrilles, quaffing martinis, as the sun tips over the yard arm.

Nice one Winston!

Pam + Seeing Dog ‘Evie’
Pam and Seeing Dog ‘Evie’ (black and tan German Shepherd) took a different type of transport to their recent meeting. They flew from Northern Ireland to Birmingham by EasyJet plane. Whilst on the ground both Pam and Evi were allowed in the cockpit.

Stephen + Seeing Dog ‘Ava’
Seeing Dog ‘Ava’ attended her first Football Match with her partner Stephen Anderson.
They attended Stevenage Town v Watford Fc FA Cup match. Stevenage won on penalties, so Ava wasn’t quite the lucky mascot.

Sixth Sense?
By Neil Newart

Tuned in to a local radio station the other day and they were holding a phone- in, discussing whether dogs and other animals see ghosts! It was actually quite interesting and unusually, most of the calls were quite sensible. Opinions naturally varied. Most who said it was rubbish also stated they did not believe in ghosts, so it could not occur.

However, many others quoted instances where their dogs (and other animals) had behaved in a totally inexplicable manner and gave quite credible examples. Now, I have slept in reputed haunted buildings and wandered around many places with uncomfortable reputations and seen, or sensed, nothing. I have also been accompanied by quite sensitive dogs and they showed no indication of anything out of the ordinary.

But this has not made me cynical of those who have experienced otherwise. I know of a police dog section using a semi- derelict old rectory for training their dogs in search techniques. In one session, a total of three GSDs refused to go up a certain staircase. Two weeks later the same thing happened, with a couple of gundogs. Later the officers were informed this was known locally as the haunted staircase! Who knows what might have spooked all the dogs?

We do have to bear in mind the dog’s formidable sense of smell. Could any anxiety be due to simply something natural it can scent, or even sense, which it simply does not like? A good example occurred years ago.

There was a large country house which had been a prisoner of war camp for German prisoners, during World War One. Many unfortunate prisoners had died of pneumonia, etc., and had been buried in the grounds. Later the house was purchased and kennels with concrete runs were constructed. When dogs were introduced, many showed a lot of anxiety, when put in the runs and some even refused to be left. Many thought this was due to the place being haunted! Much later, they were demolished. For some unknown reason, someone tested the concrete and discovered there was mild radiation being given off. Could this have been detected by the dogs and they found it uncomfortable? Quite likely.

This is a fascinating subject. When someone recently said they had never seen a ghost, their companion asked, “How do you know?”

Can Anyone Explain What Was Going On Here?

We know that our dogs have extraordinary and unexplained powers, to anticipate events and to read situations, which we humans are often oblivious to.

There are so many stories of our dogs amazing power’s and many must be true.

Around the turn of the last century, we hear of the remarkable tale of an Airedale named ‘Kim’. His owner worked on the railway line between Mora and Mallaig in Scotland. His specific duty was to check the line was kept clear of landslips. The local area was hilly and landslips were not uncommon in certain seasons.

One evening, Kim’s owner returned from inspecting his stretch of line, after finding all was well. As he settled down for the evening, the night started to close in, Kim became agitated and would not settle. Something seemed to be wrong so he decided, with some reluctance, to go out again. The dog insisted on leading the way and sure enough, in the darkness before them, a landslip had covered the lines, that an hour before had been clear. The evening train was on its way. Back rushed dog and owner and were just in time to put up a danger signal, before the train came in sight.

The distance involved suggested Kim must have heard the slip occurring or even felt the vibration. But what prompted it to interpret what was happening and to give a warning?
This is just another example of something which is difficult to explain but is reality.


Promoting The Seeing Dogs Alliance

The Seeing Dogs Alliance has a website and Facebook. On Facebook amongst other things one of the Seeing Dog Instructors, Sue Scott, puts videos up of her training the Seeing Dogs. Presently she is training Sybil. They are very interesting to watch.

The Seeing Dogs Alliance now has an Instagram account. Please share, follow and like all three social media outlets to spread the word.

Seeing Dogs and Social Media
By Mel Robson

All of us, even if we’re not active users of them, will be aware of the massive part social media platforms play in many peoples day to day lives. Many of you may be aware of our Facebook page, you might even be a follower, if you are, we’d like to thank you, your support has helped the page come on in leaps and bounds over the last 12-18 months especially. With that growing success in mind, we are expanding our presence across social media to support our drive for direct to consumer giving.

By having a stronger presence on Instagram, along with the growth that has already come from the great effort on Facebook, we could see an even wider audience engaged for us. Instagram is a great platform for this because it has one of the highest rates of engagement when compared with other social media platforms.

We have now set up a new Instagram feed which may perhaps seem a little counter intuitive for us, given how highly visual a platform it is, even more so than Facebook.

The reality is that people’s attention spans are increasingly limited and visual communication for people, beyond our own blind and visually impaired community, is the primary way to grab attention and engage people, coupled with the obvious fact that some of the most popular posts and feeds on social media contain pictures and videos of pets and animals.

We want to appropriately build our presence here as it provides a massive opportunity to raise awareness of our work and its importance to more people who have the potential to give/donate, people we might not otherwise reach.

The more people we can encourage to follow us and engage with our posts – like, share, follow the more opportunities we can create.

This isn’t a fast solution but requires consistent effort and good content.
In the end, what it comes down to is simple, people don’t donate either their time or money to a charity they don’t know exists.

People need to know we’re here, who we are, what we do, and why they should care about us. If someone wants to donate money, or time as a volunteer, then why us?
Social media is possibly the best way we have at our disposal to answer that question.

You can help us by sending us content of your life, working with, training or puppy walking a seeing dog, as well as things like fundraising efforts etc. You can help by also following us across our social media.

In a similar vein, we have also set up a LinkedIn page to support the corporate fund-raising effort and encourage more businesses and brands to consider us as a cause to support.

Again, you can get involved and support us by asking people to follow us and share our posts. Whilst it is a different social media platform, it is hugely active and again holds great potential for our work to be recognised and support our need for more fund-raising to be extended to a wider and different audience that we have yet to tap into.

Alongside this we are updating the website more regularly with fresh content with more keywords which will, over time, help to boost our visibility on Google, as more regular content will signal to Google crawlers that we are an active source of relevant information, thus boosting our standing in search results.

Fund Raising

Gill Sheppard raised £396.00 with a collection at the Loughborough Park Road Branch of Tesco in early December.

Thank you to Brunswick Brewing Company and all their distributors who raised over £1000 with ‘Double Vision’ White Pale Ale. 10p from every pint sold went to the Seeing Dogs Alliance. The Ale actually sold out in its first week after release!

The sale of the Seeing Dog Christmas cards raised £82.00.

Karen and Nigel Garry raised over £2000 with a collection in Sainsburys Rhyl, NatWest Bank Llandudno and donating funds instead of sending Christmas Cards.

Ukulele Christmas Concert
By John Grave

On Sunday 3rd December, a group of Ukulele players got together to perform a concert in Chatham, for their friends and family. Also in the audience was the editor of ‘Lead On’, Jane, along with her husband Tony and retired Seeing Dog Barney, who very kindly came along to offer their support.
Although not a fundraising event, the concert managed to raise just over £100, through the sale of teas and cakes, which the charity was very pleased to accept.
The concert was a huge success with both players and audience enjoying a Christmas sing along and getting into the Christmas spirit.

The Seeing Dogs Alliance has a Just Giving Page

There are several other ways of raising funds and donations for The Seeing Dogs Alliance –

There is still ‘Give as you Live’ at no extra cost to yourself –
‘Give as you live’ is very similar to Amazon smile, which regrettably no longer exists. ‘Give as you live’ allows anyone to raise funds for their favourite charity when they shop online. ‘Give as you live’ is partnered with 6,000 stores as well as dozens of providers across insurance, energy and broadband. As a ‘thank you’ for shopping with these stores a certain % of your spend is given to the charity of your choice. Each retailer will specify their % ‘thank you’. There is NO EXTRA cost to yourself. All you have to do is register with ‘Give as you live’ www.giveasyoulive.com and specify your charity (The Seeing Dogs Alliance). The thing to remember is that to get the % thank you, you MUST access the website of the store you wish to buy from, THROUGH the ‘Give as you live’ website. New stores are joining ‘Give as you live’ daily.


To give a donation, or to pay your subscription for one or more years by cheque, please use the enclosed Subscription and Donation Form.

If you wish to give a donation and/or pay your subscription automatically each year, please complete the enclosed Bankers’ Order and return it to us, as we need to keep a record of who pays their subscription or donates by this method. We will send it to your bank. Payments can be made monthly, quarterly, or annually by this method. If you want to combine a regular donation with your subscription using this method, £5 of your first payment for the financial year will be considered to be your subscription.

The Subscription and Donation Form and the Bankers’ Order will also be enclosed with the braille and tape copies, and they will be sent as an attachment to the email copies.
If you are a taxpayer and you haven’t given us permission to claim Gift Aid on your donation, we would be grateful if you could complete the Gift Aid Declaration on whichever of the forms you use, to give us permission to claim Gift Aid. This now includes people who took out a Bankers’ Order before January 2013, as we now have a different charity number.

We send the Subscription and Donation Form and Bankers’ Order to everyone who receives Lead On, whether they are subscribing or donating or not, as it saves keeping several lists. If you want to set up a new Bankers’ Order, you will need to cancel any previous ones.
You can donate online via this website or on www.mydonatebt.com. Remember that you can also sponsor a puppy or a dog via our website.

You can donate, or pay subscriptions, by a direct bank transfer, although if you wish us to claim Gift Aid, you will have to complete a Gift Aid Declaration. Please use your name as the reference, so that we can recognise your payment. Our bank details are sort code 40 52 40, account number 00010645. These details are also on the Bankers’ Order.

If you donate or pay your subscription online, or by direct bank transfer, please let us know.
Remember you can also donate anonymously if you wish, either by sending a cheque direct to Caf Bank, 25 Kings Hill Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4JQ, or via our website. However, we like to acknowledge donations, so we would rather you let us know who you are. Thank you.

Would you like us to feature YOUR stories and news?

If so, please email your photos and personal stories, by 1st April 2024, to: info@seeingdogs.org.uk
Please join the conversation on our social platforms @seeingdogs on Facebook and @seeing_dogs on Twitter and on our Instagram.