Paul and Gizmo lead the way for north Norfolk Guide Dogs volunteer appeal
- Credit: Archant
When Paul Monaghan got his first guide dog, Travis, 20 years ago, it turned his life around, allowing him to travel independently, meet up with friends and go shopping alone.
And now Mr Monaghan - and his latest dog Gizmo - are backing an appeal to find volunteer fundraisers for the charity that helped him.
'Having a guide dog just opened everything up,' he explained. 'It gave me the confidence to get on trains and go different places and stopped me from worrying about walking into things or falling.'
Born blind in one eye and with just four per cent vision in the other, Mr Monaghan, who lives at North Walsham, had, from the age of 13, relied on a white cane to get about.
He was put in touch with the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and struck up his first working partnership aged 26.
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He said: 'Having a dog gives you a purpose, it is something to get up in the morning for and, really, they are just like a member of the family.'
After Travis retired, Mr Monaghan developed a strong attachment with the dog's replacement, Baker, until, four years ago, he too had to retire and was adopted by the family who walked him as a puppy.
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'It isn't easy to let them go and, sometimes, you don't cope very well,' Mr Monaghan said. 'But I've kept in touch with Baker and I have really taken to Gizmo - I think we have really bonded.'
Keen to support the charity that helped him gain greater independence, Mr Monaghan, who gives talks for Guide Dogs and has volunteered at the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind, is getting behind an appeal to find people willing to set up new Guide Dogs fundraising groups in Cromer and Sheringham.
'I certainly wouldn't want to go back to a white cane,' he said. 'Guide Dogs has prevented me from being too reliant on others and I really hope people will help the charity continue to support people like me.'
Guide Dogs volunteer consultant Christian Cornforth would like to hear from anyone interested in helping raise funds and awareness in the Cromer and Sheringham area.
He said: 'Nationally, there are nearly 5,000 guide dogs and owners and, with a dog costing around £50,000 through its working life, we rely on the generosity of the public to keep going.'
Anyone interested can call Mr Cornforth on 07827 281714 or visit www.guidedogs.org.uk