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Deafblind pensioner’s overweight guide dog taken to save dog’s health

Derek Beal one year ago with his portly guide dog, when life was still sweet. dog-wow
© Kent Online - Twitter

One year after his guide dog was taken away for being overweight, a deafblind pensioner has revealed that he has had no contact with the dog and has become almost housebound. But the Guide Dogs For Blind charity has defended their decision to remove the portly Golden Retriever.

By G. John Cole , 23 Jul 2019

Derek Beal (83) of Allington, Maidstone is completely blind and hard of hearing due to Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. While in his late seventies, Mr Beal was paired up with Paddy, a highly trained yellow support professional who happens to be lovable dog.

But that lovability eventually drove the pair apart. In July 2018, the charity Guide Dogs For The Blind was forced to step in and remove Paddy from Beal’s custody. The dog had become unhealthily overweight.

Beal claimed at the time that the problem was caused by Paddy’s adoring fans on the street, who plied the round boy with treats. However, guide dogs are supplied with overalls that clearly state no treats are to be given without the owner’s permission.

“We understand that having a guide dog removed is very difficult for an owner, the charity stated at the time, “and we go through a long process before we take this decision, which we only make after exhausting all other options. 

“Removals can be in the interests of the dog or to support the client the owner’s consent.” 

But one year on, Mr Beal claims that little has been done to address the mobility and emotional issues Paddy’s loss has caused.

“I've now given up on trying to get a dog out of them,” he says, as reported in Kent Online. “I was making myself ill just fighting them all the time.”

Guide dog shortage

There are delays assigning dogs to people with visual impairments at the moment – due to a lack of instructors, rather than a lack of dogs.

“[D]ogs, like people, are individuals and it does take experienced staff to match them appropriately and train them," Jonathan Mudd, head of Guide Dogs Cymru told the BBC back in November. “It's a specialised role that requires skill and dedication and Guide Dogs sets exacting standards. Every trainee instructor completes a three-year apprenticeship before qualifying.”

Supporters of the charity’s work can make a donation online.

But for Derek Beal, one year without his beloved companion or a suitable replacement is a blow.

“They took the view that my chances of seeing a dog through its life are slim even though I've kept very good health. My only way of getting out of the house now is when I can get someone to take me, so I'm stuck at home, it's as simple as that.

“Life has come to a dead stop. For 30 years I was an active person, out two or three times a day.”

Looking out for Paddy

While the charity does not comment on individual cases, they have spoken up about the need to ensure dogs are kept healthy and safe.

“Removing a guide dog from its owner is not a decision that Guide Dogs takes lightly we understand how much Paddy meant to Mr Beal,” a spokesman told Kent Online. “Everyone who applies for a guide dog is assessed against their individual needs and circumstances and our suitability criteria. However, we are very pleased to be supporting Mr Beal through our other services to ensure he is able to get out and about.”

An overweight dog is vastly more vulnerable to serious illnesses of the internal organs, cardiovascular system, bones, and joints. Exercise, an appropriate diet, and sticking to healthy treats are all essential for a dog to remain healthy, happy, and active, particularly as he or she approaches old age.