Bluestar provides vital travel experience for guide dogs in training

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Bluestar has arranged special training during Covid-19. From left: Sue Eighteen with Ribble and Penny Allen with Peggy. BLUESTAR

Go-Ahead Group-owned Bluestar has teamed up with Guide Dogs to help provide some vital bus travel experience for puppies in training. The local operator previously offered free travel across Southampton for staff, volunteers and their canine trainees, to give pups a chance to get used to hopping on and off buses, but restrictions during the pandemic have prevented this crucial aspect of their education.

“We were contacted by the charity, Guide Dogs, who were concerned that they couldn’t progress travel training for puppies in Southampton during the Covid-19 pandemic, so we came up with an idea to help,” said Nikki Honer, Bluestar’s Head of Communications.

“Our team planned some closed sessions, with social distancing measures in place, at our depot in Eastleigh. It allowed staff, volunteers and their guide dog puppies to complete some training on stationary and moving buses, that weren’t in service. It is important to us that our buses are accessible to all – and we understand the issues faced by those who are blind or partially sighted when they travel by bus.

“They rely heavily on these special dogs to help them go about their daily lives, and we are delighted to be able to help. We wish all of the puppies much success as they continue their training.”

Mandy Johnson, Operations Manager of Canine Assisted Services in Southampton, added: “We really value the support we’ve had from Bluestar. It will make a real difference to giving our dogs more experiences that will prepare them for being guide dogs and supporting people with visual impairment.”

Guide Dogs added that they are always on the lookout for more volunteers to help raise their life-changing dogs in those critical early months.