24 April is International Guide Dog Day and COTA Victoria thought you might like to know more about one of the most loved members of our staff, Valentina, guide dog to our Policy Officer, Lauren Henley (pictured with her colleague Donna Swan).
Q. Well congratulations Valentina on the international day to celebrate the amazing work that you do, can you tell us is it hard being a guide dog?
A. Thanks COTA Vic. It’s a challenging role, and not that many dogs that go through the training actually pass. I’m clearly just a cut above the rest. I love my work though, and you’ll see me wagging my tail frequently as we’re finding our way around. I also get to be with my handler all day long, while most pet dogs are just sitting at home bored.
Q. Even though it’s a challenging role, when it’s really hot outside you must be happy you get to work inside in an air conditioned office?
A. Yes, I work in air conditioned office on the fourth floor. I often go outside to help Lauren attend meetings though, and when it’s more than 30 degrees outside the pavement and roads are hot. This means I have to wear special little shoes on each of my paws. We always get quite a reaction from the public!
Q. What’s the best part about being a guide dog?
A. Well I’m a sucker for treats. But I also love helping Lauren get around and do the important policy work for COTA and older people and people with disability. When Lauren takes off my harness, I get to go into puppy mode – which means playtime even with strangers at meetings! This helps to make my day interesting.
Q. What’s the most challenging part of your role?
A. Not getting treats often enough? Not being allowed to eat treats that fall to the ground at meetings? To be honest I’m still a Labrador at heart and I find it hard to resist those delightful crumbs. I’ll usually try to get them anyway.
Q. How long have you been working with the team?
A. Well, Lauren and I have been work buddies now for just over six months. That’s not long in guide dog years, but we’re a great match – she’s fab and so funny. I’ve been working with the rest of the COTA crew since November last year. They have welcomed me with open arms, which is hard when I’m working because it breaks my concentration. I’ve started to train them to wait until my harness is off. They’ll get there eventually.
Q. If you could change one thing in the world for guide dogs and their handlers, what would it be?
A. It’d be really great if people could remember not to pat, feed or otherwise distract me when I’m in harness. When my harness is on, I’m working, so I need to concentrate in order to keep Lauren safe.
Q. And what will you be doing to celebrate International Guide Dog Day?
A. Well, I was thinking of chucking a sickie, finding a garden bed and… No, I’ll be by Lauren’s side and hopefully getting some extra special treats? New squeaky toy? (hint, hint, Lauren, if you’re reading this?) Extra long lunch time in the park? Extra cuddles from the team at COTA (hint, hint, Team COTA Victoria).
Q. Thanks Valentina, You’ve been Pawfect. All the best for the future.
A. Thanks for the Pawsitive story COTA Victoria. I will love you Furever!