Wirral business owner sponsors ‘sweet and charming’ Guide Dogs pup 

Simon Kirkby of oven cleaning service Ovenu Wirral South is supporting Guide Dogs’ pup Ralph throughout his extensive training programme.

The yellow Golden Retriever/Labrador cross replaces black Lab Selsey, which Ovenu franchisees first started sponsoring in 2021.

Although excelling in training, Selsey developed a slight weakness in one hip which meant she could not become a working Guide Dog. Despite the setback, Simon is continuing his sponsorship to support the charity.

Now aged 11 months, Ralph (pictured, lead image) is spending time with Puppy Raisers Toni and Adrian, two of the 16,000 volunteers that work with Guide Dogs. He will remain with them until he’s 12 to 14-months-old before being considered for full Guide Dog training, with the longer-term ambition of being assigned to a visually impaired person.

So far Ralph is settling in well and is described as “sweet and charming”. His latest report card says he’s brilliant at boarding public transport and is confident in busy environments, while his food manners are “almost there”.

Simon Kirkby

Simon, a former printing industry account manager who launched the business in 2006,  said, “Guide Dogs is a fantastic charity and I’m pleased to be able to give something back by supporting its life-changing work. These dogs provide those with sight loss greater mobility, independence, social interaction – as well as companionship.

“It’s also a way of saying a huge thank you to my clients who, without their continued support, I wouldn’t be in a position to sponsor this adorable pup!”

Guide Dogs’ CEO Andrew Lennox said, “It costs approximately £56,000 to support each guide dog through from birth to retirement, and without all the contributions of our donors and the efforts of our fundraisers we would not be able to do what we do.”

The first four British guide dogs – Judy, Flash, Folly and Meta – completed their training with Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond at Wallasey in 1931, and three years after this the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was formed. 

The first permanent trainer for Guide Dogs was Nikolai Liakhoff, who came to England in 1933. In 1941, the organisation’s premises at The Cliff in Wallasey was commandeered for war purposes and the Guide Dogs moved to new premises in the centre of England at Leamington Spa.

For further information or to donate to Guide Dogs visit https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/

Lead image: Now aged 11 months, Ralph is spending time with Puppy Raisers Toni and Adrian

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