Seashell Trust students have made a new friend in former guide dog Josh.
The charity Guide Dogs run a buddy programme which provides specially trained dogs to help increase the communication, physical activity and social inclusion of visually impaired children and young people.
Practising with Josh, they can learn animal care skills in preparation for possibly owning a guide dog themselves.
Bernie White, director of education at the Seashell Trust-run Royal College Manchester and Josh’s carer, said: “College students have responded wonderfully to Josh and a number of them have received additional training so they understand how to interact with him. They change his water, take him for a walk, play with him and are learning to give him instructions. Students are now starting to learn how to groom him as part of the animal care project.”
Many of the students at Seashell Trust in Cheadle Hulme have complex and severe learning disabilities as well as being visually impaired or deafblind. They can become distracted or overwhelmed by the world around them.
Bernie added: “Josh’s calm temperament is perfect for the college environment and staff have been delighted to observe students on our sensory course, smiling and reaching out to stroke Josh, while others are more motivated and engaged learners when working with him.
“Nick, a second year student, now takes Josh with him to the local library and focusing on walking Josh has enabled him to halve his journey time. Luke, a first year student, shared news about the dog with his family and decided to bring in a rope toy, which Josh loves.
“Mohsin, who is deafblind, has recently been introduced to Josh and is learning to recognise Josh is nearby. Working with Josh is helping Mohsin to feel less isolated and take the lead when interacting with others.”
If you would like to find out more about the life-changing work of buddy dogs like Josh, please visit the Guide Dogs website www.guidedogs.org.uk