Disney helps me to get out. For mental health reasons, that’s very important. Also, I feel like I’m doing something with my life, looking after a Guide Dog and teaching other people about him.
At 13 years old Rob Scotter from Bowthorpe near Norwich was on his way to a fairground with his mum, when he began to notice that he couldn’t see very well in the dark. Suddenly, he couldn’t see anything at all.
In the daytime, his eyesight improved.
But as he got older, his sight deteriorated rapidly. Rob can see people or things right in front of him, but has no periphery vision. He was diagnosed with a hereditary eye disease and his sight will only get worse. He is now 43 and registered blind.
This is his story.
Tell us about Disney, how long have you had him?
Disney is a labradoodle and he came to live with me on February 1st 2017, he’s 5 years old and his birthday is in April.
Do you have to give Disney back?
Disney is mine for life now. He’ll work until he’s 10 and then he’ll retire and I get to keep him. I had to sign a contract to say I’ll look after him, feed him and care for him through his life.
How much does Disney cost?
Disney will cost approximately £55,000 over his lifetime. That will cover the vet bills, care, food and training.
How long does it take to train a guide dog?
The charity trains the guide dog and then pairs it up with a partner. I had to train with Disney for one month before we got our licence – a bit like a driving licence.
You’ve agreed to be a local inspirational speaker for Guide Dogs for the Blind and so we are meeting at my daughter’s Brownies group. Are the girls allowed to stroke Disney?
When Disney has his bright yellow harness on, he is a working dog.
You must always ask the owner if you can stroke the dog, whether it’s a guide dog or not, just to be careful. When I take Disney’s harness off, he is not working, so I’m happy for anyone to ask me and they can stroke him.
When we met, you could see me and shake my hand, do people ask you if you’re really blind?
All the time! I’m sure some wonder why I have a guide dog. The charity is actually for blind and partially sighted people but because its name is Guide Dogs for the Blind sometimes it can be confusing for people. I am registered blind and I need Disney to help me to get from A to B.
What difference does Disney make to your life?
Disney helps me to get out and about and for mental health reasons, that’s very special. It’s nice to have a dog and you always meet nice dog owners at the park, it’s a great community. Also, I’m doing something with my life. It’s great to work with Disney and to do talks like this to raise awareness about partially sighted and blind people.
If you were crossing the road with Disney and someone saw you – would you want help?
I don’t need help but I don’t mind people asking. If you are helping, make sure you’re safe first when crossing the road before you help me. Speak to the dog’s owner first. Not all of us are the same!
Is Disney working all the time?
No, we go to the park 2-3 times a week so that he can run around and just be a normal dog.
It costs £5 a day to support each working Guide Dog partnership. Guide Dogs for the Blind is a charity responsible for around 8,000 dogs. If you would like to support a Guide Dog partnership, please go to guidedogs.org.uk it could make such a difference to a person.