Blind man ‘too slow’ to have a guide dog

by Darren Jamieson on August 13, 2008

Eric Gamsby, a 78-year-old blind man, has been told he will not get another guide dog when his current dog, a 9-year old Golden Retriever named Alice, retires. The reason given by the charity ‘Guide Dogs for the Blind’ is that Eric walks too slowly to benefit from a guide dog.

Eric has relied on guide dogs for the past 20 years to allow him to stay mobile, and he’s had Alice for the past 6 years. However when Alice retires soon Eric will have the dog taken from him, and will not be given another one.

Officials for the charity have stated that because Eric’s health is poor and his mobility is sufficiently hindered that he cannot have another guide dog.

Eric is a retired factory worker who has had guide dogs since he was 60-years-old.

Eric claims his speed shouldn’t be a factor in refusing him a new guide dog:

I’m not Linford Christie – I am an old man not in the greatest of health,’ he said. ‘I suffer from sciatica so it’s hard for me to walk quickly.

A trip to the shops just two streets away usually takes me ten minutes with a dog. Without one, it will take me twice as long.

A man came round and checked my pace against Alice and saw how I reacted if she moved left or right. Then he said I wasn’t quick enough.

Without a new guide dog from Guide Dogs from the Blind, Eric will be forced to use a white stick to get around.

I’m very down about it, very disappointed.

Alice has been a good dog – she’s not only a guide dog, she’s company. It will be like having a member of the family taken away.

Compared to walking with a stick, walking with a dog is like a jet plane.

With a stick, you have to swing side to side and it’s just not the same.

You can miss some things. A dog doesn’t miss anything and will always find a way for you. It’s going to be a struggle with a stick.

Eric lives in Daubhill, Greater Manchester. He used to live with his wife Elsie, but she died in 1988. Shortly after in 1990 Eric had his first guide dog named Zilla, since then he has had a further two dogs.

Alice has been one of the best dogs I’ve had. She is still as alert as ever and she could go on for years.

They all have their own character and their quirks. Alice loves going out and meeting people. She always puts her paw up to say “Hello”.

According to the Guide Dogs for the Blind charity, Eric’s slow pace means he would not be able to look after a guide dog so cannot have one granted when Alice retires.

The charity was unable to accept Mr Gamsby for a replacement guide dog straight away due to concerns regarding his capability and potential safety to be a guide dog owner.

With a guide dog, Eric will be unable to get out of his home as much as he can with Alice.

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