Blind woman has her guide dog taken away

Shirley Waller (left) with South Lincolnshire Blind Society operations manager Susan Swinburn.
Shirley Waller (left) with South Lincolnshire Blind Society operations manager Susan Swinburn.
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A blind pensioner feels pushed into a “dark world” by a charity that took her guide dog away after the animal ate a glove.

Shirley Waller (80), of Mead Way, Market Deeping, was distraught when Guide Dogs for the Blind told her she could no longer keep her Labrador Alfie.

It means she will have to use a white cane and be taken out for walks by sighted volunteers.

Alfie ate a men’s leather glove and had to have an operation. But Shirley is sure the glove couldn’t have been in her house and is confident she can still look after the dog.

She said: “They said they were taking Alfie away because I couldn’t look after him. They said I couldn’t have another dog because I walk too slowly.”

Alfie was taken away in June. But Shirley, who has lived with guide dogs for 25 years, only recently came forward with her story.

She said: “I can’t get my head around it. I feel after 25 years of being able to go out and about, now I can’t because I have had to revert back to a white cane. I am 80 and learning to use a white cane is not an easy task.

“My walking has suffered because I have not been able to get out and about. I’m stuck at home waiting for any kind person to come and take me for a walk.”

Shirley spent years raising funds for Guide Dogs for the Blind and was nominated to carry the Olympic torch through her home town in the July 2012 relay as a result.

She said: “I feel completely and utterly let down. I have worked for the charity in all weathers collecting, doing talks to raise awareness of what they are like. I was so happy to do it because they had got me out of this dark world, but now they have pushed me back into it.”

Once Alfie was taken away, Shirley asked for a retired guide dog to keep her company. But she found out in October her name had only just been put on the waiting list.

Shirley has been told she can no longer give talks about the charity’s work as she doesn’t have a guide dog to accompany her.

South Lincolnshire Blind Society chief executive Malcolm Swinburn said: “We would be quite willing to work with Guide Dogs for the Blind and Shirley to make sure that we did everything that was possible to ensure Alfie’s future safety.”

A spokesman for Guide Dogs for the Blind said: “We care very deeply about the health and wellbeing of our guide dogs and, as Mrs Waller’s dog was experiencing health issues, we made the difficult decision to retire him early.

“We understand that losing her guide dog has been very tough for Mrs Waller; guide dogs are life-changing for their owners and so to be parted from one can be difficult.”

The charity would not explain why it would not let Shirley have another dog.