Scotland’s only guide dog training centre is trying to recruit more fosterers for life-changing companions.
Fosterers play a vital role in the journey of a guide dog before it’s partnered with somebody with sight loss.
The centre in Forfar, Angus, is now looking for volunteers to come forward who can look after dogs overnight between training sessions.
Emma Martin, volunteer coordinator for Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “Many of our fosterers work and probably couldn’t have a dog full time.
“For them, they get companionship of a dog at home, and our dogs get that relaxed home environment rather than being in kennels.
“By the end of the day, they have probably been mentally stimulated and had lots of walking, so they want a nice relaxed environment to be able to just settle.”
Dogs that graduate from Forfar go on to work across Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.
Emma said: “We cover everything to do with the role, so all of our fosterers get full training on how to handle our guide dogs and we cover all of the expenses as well.
“We don’t want our fosterers to be out of pocket, so it’s really their time, dedication and passion to be able to raise the dogs how we need.”
During the pandemic, training was put on hold and breeding stopped. The impact can still be felt as the need for guide dogs grows.
Wendy Kinnin, director of canine services at Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “2022 was our year of recovery as an organisation, getting ourselves back to a place where we can be fully operational.
“So 2023 is the year of transformation in terms of starting to rebuild partnerships.
“The Forfar site itself could take between 80 and 85 training dogs and at the moment we have about 45 to 50 training dogs here.
“We bring in a set number every month and have them here in day kennels and then they spend the evenings with fosterers who drop them off every day.
“We really need to build that fosterer base in order to build our dog base.”
Volunteers must be able to drop the dog off at the Forfar Regional Centre on weekdays between 7-9am and pick them up between 4.45-6pm, a bit like doing the school run.
Anyone interested can visit the website here or email VolunteerScotNI@guidedogs.org.uk.