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Rebellious Thames Water guide dog finds new forever home

Tuesday 15th December 2020 11:45

Kirsty Halford with former guide dog Victoria

Victoria is loving life with Kirsty and her family

A rebel guide dog who had to retire early is now loving life as a pampered pet after being adopted by her former owner’s Thames Water colleague.

Victoria, a four-year-old black Labrador, ‘supported’ diversity and inclusion co-ordinator Frankie Tipton for two years – but never properly settled into life as a working dog.

At Thames Water’s HQ in Reading, she would wander off and eat food from bags under desks, stop dead in the middle of the street for no reason, and once almost made Frankie step off a railway platform after becoming distracted by another dog.

Now Victoria is living her best life in her forever home after being adopted by Thames Water’s nature reserves manager Kirsty Halford and her family in Didcot – the same Oxfordshire town as Frankie and his family.

Kirsty said: “Before lockdown I used to take Victoria on walks in Reading where Frankie and I worked, and this year took her out in Didcot a couple of times with my boys, so we already had a very special relationship with her.

“We knew things weren’t working out with her as a guide dog, so when Frankie called us to ask if we would consider having her, we all said ‘yes’ in a heartbeat.

“She loves the fact she doesn’t have to be walked on the lead everywhere she goes, and absolutely loves playing catch with her ball when we go out for long family walks.

“Guide Dogs worked with Frankie and Victoria to try and retrain her and look at her behaviours, but it wasn’t meant to be. It is sad, but she wasn’t enjoying being a working dog – she just wanted to be family pet. It was better for his sake, and hers, that she retired early, and we’re so happy to be able to give her the life she wanted.”

Frankie, who is registered blind, hopes to be reunited with Victoria over Christmas but wants to give her time to settle into her new home first.

He said: “Victoria is such a lovely soul, she just never settled as a working dog. At first, she was great, but she had too much free will, and would often just stop in the middle of the street – which wasn’t ideal!

“I’m on the waiting list for another guide dog but can still get around with my white cane. I do miss Victoria as a family dog. I’m just so happy my friend and colleague Kirsty and her family have been able to take her on. I know all their lives will be so much happier as a result.”

Thames Water was last year awarded Disability Confident Leader status – the highest possible by the government – for its commitment to employing, supporting and retaining people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

In 2018, Thames Water raised £4,400 for Guide Dogs after holding a competition to name a guide dog of the future. The winning name was Walnut – after the company’s Swindon office.

A Guide Dogs spokesperson said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have so many people offering fantastic new homes for our withdrawn and retired guide dogs.

“We rehome our dogs for a variety of different reasons, and their new owners always leave with advice to help settle in their new dog.” 

Frankie Tipton with Victoria and previous guide dog Bentley in 2018

Frankie with Victoria and previous guide dog Bentley, pictured in 2018