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‘Lacey has improved my life in so many ways’

When Kelsey Trevett was 16 weeks old, he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in his left eye and it was removed. Unfortunately, aged five years old Kelsey was diagnosed again, this time in his right eye. His remaining eye was removed when he was six. Now 16, Kelsey has just finished his GCSEs and over the past year has been adjusting to life with his newest companion, guide dog Lacey. Here Christopher Payne, 13, talks to him about his relationship with Lacey, how she has benefitted him and some of the nitty gritty of owning a guide dog…

How has Lacey improved your life?

Lacey has improved my life in so many ways — it’s truly bizarre to imagine life without her these days! She has enabled me to travel more confidently, efficiently and easily, increasing my independence and ability to take part in opportunities offered to me.

How has Lacey helped you as an individual?

Of course, Lacey has improved my independence and confidence, and my ability to travel with ease and efficiency, but she has also taught me about being responsible. Being responsible for another living creature was a whole new experience for me, and having Lacey in my life has definitely shown me how considering others is vital when taking responsibility in life.

How did you find training with Lacey?

Training with a guide dog is obviously exciting, and quite nerve-wracking at times, but it is definitely exhausting. I trained from home during the summer holidays of 2017, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired in my life!

The training is intense, and I found that there were many good days, and also some bad days where things just seemed to go wrong; apparently that’s quite normal though, as the process is so draining for the owner and the dog. Overall, though, the training process is really rewarding, and looking back on it now, I’m so proud of what I achieved then, and what Lacey and I are continuing to achieve together today.

How does she help you on your journey to school?

Lacey came to school with me every day during Year 11, including during my GCSE examinations in the summer of 2018. Our journey involves a bus, tube, and several walking sections; Lacey copes exceptionally well with such a busy journey, although she definitely enjoys her nap during first lesson!

Has anyone ever done something funny towards Lacey?

You wouldn’t believe! I think the funniest moment, although the one which made me metaphorically roll my eyes the most, was the time someone wanted to feed Lacey a chocolate biscuit… people, eh?

Can you imagine life without her?

Simply put, no. I can’t. It feels weird whenever I go out without her, using a cane; it’s like I’ve forgotten something, or am missing something key to me.

How often does she need to be exercised?

Lacey’s work as a guide dog is enough to keep her exercised; trust me, we walk a lot together! Once or twice a week though, Lacey goes for a free run. This is basically where she is let off her lead and harness in an enclosed, safe area (like a field or park) to have a bit of a run around. It allows her to let off some steam, and is also really good for keeping her stress levels under control — remember, dogs aren’t natural mobility aids, and guiding blind people isn’t part of their natural behaviour.

What makes the perfect guide dog?

Each guide dog is selected in accordance to the needs of their potential owner, so everyone’s ‘perfect guide dog’ is going to be a little different. Of course, all guide dogs are trained thoroughly, and are all well behaved and non-aggressive.

How has she benefitted your life outside of school?

I have a busy life outside of school, playing a visually impaired sport called Goalball regularly, as well as meeting up with friends across the country (especially in and around London), and travelling extensively because of it. Lacey comes pretty much everywhere with me, and has benefitted me by increasing my confidence and ability to travel efficiently whenever I choose.

Has she helped you in the classroom?

I wish! Alas, Lacey has not picked up any academic skills yet… I’ll teach her Shakespeare one day!

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