WHEN Sylvia Linnett met Kip the springer spaniel at a barbecue, it was love at first sight – the only problem was that Kip couldn’t see Sylvia.
Despite being totally blind, the three-year-old pooch has now achieved a top Kennel Club award for good behaviour after being adopted by Sylvia, of Acklington.
From being discovered in an RSPCA rescue centre, Kip was introduced to his new owner at a social event organised for volunteers of the North East Springer Spaniel Rescue organisation, who had fostered him.
Sylvia said: “I took one look at him charging around the paddock banging his head every two minutes and fell in love.”
Kip was trained at Northumberland Canine Centre, near Alnwick. He first had to get used to a word which was an alert for him to slow down.
Centre owner Jacquie Hall said: “Ironically, Sylvia chose the word ‘watch’ which is clearly something that Kip cannot do, but it worked well for him and he learnt that it meant danger ahead.
“Sylvia realised that although Kip was blind, he was actually a very bright and biddable dog and began trying to train him using sound and touch cues and tasty rewards.
“To train a normal dog to gold level is hard enough for most owners but to train a blind dog to that standard requires incredible patience, ingenuity and an understanding of how best that particular dog learns.”
Owning a blind dog has its problems, however.
Jacquie said: “Kip started to swim out to sea and had to be rescued by Sylvia swimming out herself. The incident caused a major Coastguard alert as the dog was reported by a member of the public and Sylvia and Kip were met on the beach by a Sea King helicopter winchman.”