Lead role in Israel for UK-trained guide dog

By Jay Grenby, December 23, 2008

A golden labrador trained in the UK for the Israel Guide Dogs for the Blind Centre has “made aliyah”.

Minty was put on to an El Al plane at Heathrow by Gill Stoller, the Pinner Israel Action Group member who has taught and cared for her for the past year.

In Israel, she was handed over to her new handlers by fellow Pinner Synagogue member Hilary West, who had volunteered to oversee Minty’s transfer while on a trip to visit her daughter.

Mrs Stoller is the first Briton to train a dog using Ivrit instructions, for the Israel Centre. An experienced “puppy-walker” — a volunteer who takes on the early training of potential guide dogs — she had trained puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind, and latterly, for the Hearing Dogs for Deaf People organisation in Israel.

Just over a year ago, the Stoller household was joined by Minty, one of litter of nine puppies bred specially by the UK Guide Dogs Association. Under Mrs Stoller’s tutelage, she learned to be aware of traffic movement and noise, to sit quietly for periods of time, and to deal with a host of everyday situations.

“I had to do some learning, too,” Mrs Stoller recalled. “I don’t speak Hebrew, but I quickly had to acquire the appropriate Ivrit words for the standard commands.”

The Stollers were sad to see Minty go and want to maintain their links with her. “The people at the Israel Centre have promised to keep in touch and let me know how she gets on and I hope to visit her when I go to Israel next summer.

“In the meantime, she will get a further six-to-nine months specialised training, after which she will be assessed.

“If she is especially good, she may be retained at the centre for breeding. Otherwise, she will be matched with a suitable owner from among the 20,000 registered blind people in Israel.”

Last updated: 10:38am, December 23 2008