Becoming breeding dog volunteers for Guide Dogs was ‘one of the best things we have ever done’

Sometimes you don’t find your perfect pet, sometimes they find you. And that’s what happened for Coventry woman Ruth.

Having always wanted a dog, a perfectly timed advert in the local paper prompted her to volunteer with Guide Dogs, the charity that uses guide dogs to help people with sight loss, and look after a guide dog mum.

More than 15 years on, Ruth and her family have looked after four guide dog mums and welcomed nearly 90 puppies into the world. And as Ruth said: “It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.

“I feel like we’ve made a large difference to a small number of people’s lives. Hearing from guide dog owners how their dogs change their lives gives us an immense feeling of satisfaction that we have contributed to that massive change for people with a vision impairment.”

Ruth added: “I was promised a pet dog when my brother turned three; in the end I had to wait until he was 39!”

Having met a friend who looks after a guide dog mum, when Ruth saw the advert looking for more volunteers, she jumped at the chance to apply.


“What drew us to it was the fact that it we would have a nice dog, we would be doing good for a charity, and it was something that we’d never do ourselves,” she explained. “We would have had a dog, but I don’t think we would have had puppies.”

In 2007 Ruth and her family were matched with their first dog, Yarna, a yellow Labrador. “When they brought Yarna out from the kennel block she just trotted towards us and we instantly knew she was the dog for us. She was just so full of character and had beautiful kind eyes. She really enhanced our family.”

Ruth, her husband and their three daughters threw themselves into looking after Yarna, especially when she had her first litter of puppies. “We all had our own individual roles,” Ruth said. “We had midwife Lucy, aftercare Charlotte and Alice wrote down all the notes. It was a wonderful experience for the girls to help with the puppies, and as they grew older it was lovely for them to play with them too.”

And the puppies haven’t stopped coming! “We’ve had 89 puppies born in our house and they’ve been all sorts of different crosses and colours. And every single time it’s been a joyous experience.” said Ruth.

“I think we are very fortunate to be in the position that we can have puppies in the house. I love the weaning stage. They become more attached to us, and we get an insight into their characters. Sometimes you’ll get some in the litter who seem a little quiet then suddenly they are confident and really inquisitive. You can watch them for hours; they are all so funny together.”

Ruth has looked after four guide dog mums since 2007, with three in her house at the moment: retired black labrador Lola, golden retriever Georgia and golden retriever/labrador cross Rhoda, who had her first litter in the summer of 2023.

“We recently discovered Rhoda is the great, great granddaughter of our first dog Yarna – it is lovely for us to have that connection to her,” Ruth said.

“The support we have had from Guide Dogs and our advisors has been fantastic. We’ve had six breeding dog advisors over the years and all have been brilliant. We have 24/7 support and we know we can ring them with any question or issue. There is never a time when we don’t feel supported.”

And with 89 puppies born at her house, Ruth has helped change dozens of lives for people with sight loss: “Out of those 89, the vast majority have qualified as guide dogs. To be able to have puppies that go on to provide such an important service to somebody is just an honour.

“It must be one of the best things we have ever done. We have had four beautiful dogs, who all come to us bouncy but well trained and beautifully bred.

“As a family, we used to go for walks regularly but since having our first guide dog mum Yarna, our horizons have been well and truly broadened. We have explored so many new places and met so many different people because of our dogs.

“They are great conversation starters and I have explained the Guide Dogs breeding programme and the role we play within it to countless people! I live in hope that one or two might now be breeding dog volunteers themselves.”

ref. CoventryLive