Coronavirus: How do guide dog owners deal with the lockdown?


The lockdown can be challenging for everyone, but there are extra problems to be overcome for guide dog owners.

There are 170,000 people living with sight loss in Scotland.

Most of the services normally provided for them have been stopped or scaled back.

We spoke to Monica McGill, who lives in West Lothian, about how she is getting about, getting her shopping and exercising her dog, while trying to keep at a distance from other people.

Monica says some of the problems stem from the way guide dogs are expected to behave in normal times.

"The dogs are trained very much to walk in a straight line as we instruct them to.

"They're always trained to walk down the centre of a space so that they keep us as safe as possible from any obstructions.

"They don't understand that we need to maybe move over to the right or to the left just now, to either allow another pedestrian to walk past us or not to come too close to somebody else in a shop."

A guide dog, like any other, needs to be exercised and allowed to have fun.

Monica says that has become more difficult since the emergency measures came into force.

"The town that I live in is a very dog-friendly, dog-orientated town, which is wonderful for having a dog in.

"We've got lots of lovely green spaces but of course now pretty much everybody is working from home and trying to take their dog for a walk in daylight hours and give them exercise and fun.

"It can be hard to find a quiet park, a quiet time of the day, and try to maintain that two-metre rule of not getting too close to one another."

It's not just the visually impaired who have had to think in a different way since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

But Monica says her confidence in her own ability to cope has suffered.

"I do actually feel vulnerable. What I thought from the last experience of going to the shops was - I've been a guide dog owner for seven or eight years and a confidence levels do grow from that.

"You get very secure working with your dog. To then walk straight into a situation where I felt overwhelmed by it, it did knock my confidence.

"It has reminded me that in certain situations I am vulnerable and it would be nice if people recognised that a little bit more and a little bit more often."