Guide dogs for the under 18’s
Hannah Burgess is one of fifty under 18’s who have a guide dog to aid them with everyday life. Hannah is 15 years old from Milton Keynes and attends a local comprehensive school which caters for almost 3,000 students. Hannah’s guide dog Rory attends school with her every day and has adapted well to trusting Rory at all times including crossing roads, helping her down stairs and onto pavements.
Hannah understands that some people, especially new students can take time to fully adjust to seeing a dog everyday at all. “Most people have got over a dog being there now. I get a bit of grief but it’s not too bad.” The school help Hannah in every way possible to make life easier for her and Rory however there are some lessons Rory can’t attend due to other student’s allergies or due to health and safety regulations such as food practical lessons and science lessons.
Before having Rory Hannah used to have to use either her white cane or if she was out with her mum hold on to her mums arm which like most teenagers Hannah’s age wasn’t ideal. Hannah now feels mature and independent through having Rory and also enjoys his company.
Three years ago the Guide Dogs charity changed their rules which meant children under 18 could have a guide dog is required after training courses to ensure they can look after a dog and its responsibilities including dog walking and feeding. Since the rules have changed the charity has received 172 applications for under 18s and 13 are now awaiting training. The youngest guide dog owner in the UK is 13.