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Appeal in memory of guide dog Joy
THE OWNER of a well-known guide dog who died suddenly earlier this summer has launched an appeal to raise money to train new puppies.
Swindon Guide Dogs chairman Alan Fletcher has launched 4joy.co.uk in memory of Joy, who gave him back his freedom and independence.
He hopes to raise £20,000 through the website, which will pay for the first year of training for four guide dog puppies.
Alan, who was awarded a Pride of Swindon award in March in recognition of the community work he did with Joy, said: “She changed my life so much. She gave me my life back. Before I had Joy I couldn’t go out on my own, I had to wait for my wife to come home and take me out.
“If I had to go and get a haircut she had to take me, if I had to go to the doctor she had to take me and I couldn’t just go and get a newspaper if I wanted it.
“You think you know where you live but when you can’t see you realise you don’t. I found myself walking into lamp posts and that really knocked my confidence, so I decided to have a guide dog, and I got Joy.
“Joy also gave my wife Shirley her independence back because she didn’t have to rush home or worry about me so much.”
So far Alan has raised around £5,000 through the website, which will pay for one of the pups. He is encouraging people to donate through the website and hold their own fundraisers as part of the appeal, such as jump4Joy, dance4Joy, run4Joy and walk4Joy.
“The support has been overwhelming,” he said.
“A lot of people met Joy around the town and we spoke to about 10,000 schoolchildren, as a lot of schoolchildren knew her as well.
“I just want to thank everybody who has donated so far because that will make a big, big difference to somebody’s life.”
Joy regularly appeared at fundraising events for Swindon Guide Dogs in the seven years she was with Alan, and was well known in Swindon after many of the visits she made to schools, scout troops and guides groups as well as many other community gatherings.
As part of the Guide Dogs’ Name a Puppy scheme, fundraisers who donate £5,000 can name a guide dog puppy and receive updates in its first year of training.
Alan plans to name at least one of the four pups he sponsors Joy.
Although the puppies will be raised and walked in Swindon in the first year of their training, they could start their careers as far away as Norfolk.
Alan said: “If a guide dog is walked in an area they try not to have them work in the same area because if they bump into their dog walker when they are working they might get distracted. Most of the puppies walked here get placed in the South East.”
Alan, a former BMW engineering boss, began losing his sight 15 years ago and was diagnosed with retinal dystrophy, a family of incurable degenerative eye conditions.
He was registered blind in 2005, and in 2009 an unrelated cancer was discovered behind his right eye. His only remaining vision is the odd faint flicker in his left eye.
For more information about Guide Dogs visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/swindon. To help Alan raise 4pups4Joy visit 4joy.co.uk.
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