Guide dog puppy walker speaks out about pavement parking in Sidmouth
- Credit: Archant
A guide dog puppy walker is urging drivers to ‘think twice’ about parking on pavements after gaining a new perspective on visual impairment.
Ashley Leeds is taking puppy Trekka through his first year of training. They have also battled overgrown hedges, loose paving stones, parents with buggies and other pet owners providing a range of distractions.
But the first-time dog owner said the scheme is ‘absolutely brilliant’ and is urging others to consider caring for a pet with a very special future.
“You’ve got to think as if you have little or no sight,” said the business development consultant, who looks after Trekka with wife Debbie. They are classed as puppy walkers – it will be years before the black labrador is fully trained.
“Having a car on the pavement is a complete nightmare,” said Ashley.
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“Trekka will have to learn to make the decision on how to get around it safely.”
He has considered leaving notes on the windows of cars parked on pavements, but said he has to remember he is an ambassador for the guide dog scheme.
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“I want people to read my story and think about becoming puppy walkers themselves, or to think differently about guide dogs,” added the 50-year-old.
Other people have called for greater powers for the police to intervene, but he believes it is more effective if residents think twice about their own actions.
“People leave their hedges overgrown or walk straight at you on the pavement – they’re all things we take for granted that a guide dog has to evaluate,” added Ashley.
“Some owners don’t seem to care their dogs are running round off their leads and try to play with Trekka, but most see that he’s working and apologise.”
Ashley and Debbie have never had a dog before, so opted to join a scheme with plenty of support to learn how to ‘do it properly’. They wanted to wait until family life settled down – their two daughters are now both in their 20s – and they could fit their lives around their pet.
Guide dogs cannot be left alone for more than three hours at a time, but Debbie works part-time and Ashley works from their Newlands Road home, so they have the flexibility.
“It’s something we wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “If you’re going to have a dog, you’ve got to be around. Training is very strict. Trekka’s not allowed upstairs or on the furniture, and he’s not allowed human food.
“As new owners it’s a fantastic way to learn about bringing up a dog in a family, and it’s nice to give something back.
“It’s absolutely brilliant having Trekka – it will be hard to part with him. Hopefully we’ll get another one.”