A reflection on my training experience.

Hello, my name is Tom Looney. I would like to tell you a little about my training experience to get my new Guide Dog Jira.

Jira is my second Guide Dog, having already retired my first Guide Dog Dec a few months ago.

Guide Dog Trainers Liam and Thibaut came to my home for a matching visit with a dog I had never met before – Jira. Straight away Jira came across as a very friendly dog. She sniffed around my house and put her head in my lap. Liam and Thibaut asked if we could do one of my routes with Jira to see how compatible we could be.

We set off on a walk around my neighbourhood. This is a walk I would have done every day with Dec. It took us a while to get into our stride but after a while I could see Jira and me could be a potential good match. Liam and Thibaut agreed and they asked me to think about it for a few days and they would do another walk the following week and we could all make a decision together.

The following week, we had our second walk together. It went very well and I really was starting to enjoy Jira. Liam suggested we take Jira for a week to see how she would fit into our family and, more importantly, to see how she would get on with Dec. This was an integral part of my decision-making. The new dog had to get on with Dec, it was imperative. After one day I could tell Jira and Dec were going to be great friends. This made me and my wife Emily very happy. The next day, I rang Liam and told him if at all possible, I would like to except Jira as my new Guide Dog. Liam and Thibaut officially matched me and Jira and set a date for our class.

The class was held in February of this year down in the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Training Centre in Cork. I was a bit apprehensive heading down for class but once I arrived they made me feel very welcome. The atmosphere created by Thibaut and Liam and the rest of the group getting their new Guide Dogs was outstanding. The weeks flew and I really enjoyed the experience.

I couldn’t be happier with Jira. She is a huge credit to her trainers Liam and Thibaut and everyone else involved in the process from the Instructors to the Trainers, Kennel team, Kitchen staff, Management, Fundraising team, Puppy Raisers, Temp homes and anyone else I forgot to mention.

Over the years of having Dec, we formed a wonderful partnership. We have grown in the belief of each other’s capabilities and confidence. Now I am confident Jira can carry on the mantle that Dec performed with me during his years of service.

Since meeting Jira on that matching visit with Liam and Thibaut at the start of this year, the relationship we have formed is so strong. I can say from my previous experiences that this partnership knows no bounds. She is such a clever and trustworthy dog and she can grasp a situation in a second without a thought.

Just a special note to all the corporate and general donors associated with the supporting of all these fantastic Guide Dogs. You’re the reason I am here today. Thank you.

Tom Looney

Pictured: Guide Dog Owner Tom, his retired Guide Dog Dec on the left and his new Guide Dog Jira on his right.


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