I’ve cared for all my dogs but he’s a real sweetie.
Alban Gannon adores his guide dog of four years, Usher. “He’s a darling of a guide dog. I’ve cared for all my dogs but he’s a real sweetie.”
But Gannon is very scared that he is going to lose Usher. According to Gannon, in April, charity Guide Dogs, who provided the German shepherd, threatened to take him away, saying that Gannon had been evasive about allowing the charity carry out its annual checkup on the dog’s health and wellbeing.
Gannon said that the charity claimed that they sent him letters about the inspection, but his severe blindness meant that he could not read them, so was unaware of when he was supposed to meet a representative of the charity.
'Aggressive and patronising'
Gannon, 59, said that the charity has been aggressive and patronising towards him. After being told that his dog would be removed, he was then told that the charity had changed its mind, only to receive a letter saying that he needed to sign up to an agreement in order to keep Usher.
“I’ve got to sign up to a plan to aid greater communication between us. That doesn’t sound too bad. But it’s very nebulous the way it’s worded,” Gannon said.
Gannon lives in Brighton, but travels frequently to Ireland for family reasons. He said that Guide Dogs has asked him to provide telephone numbers of his friends so that they can find out where he is. However, he does not want to provide this information due to bad experience in the past.
“I found that two friends of mine had had phone calls from Guide Dogs asking where I was. But Guide Dogs hadn’t contacted me directly,” he said.
Gannon, who has been blind for some 40 years after losing his sight in his early 20s, has had four guide dogs in the past. “I understand why some people would lose a guide dog under certain circumstances, but I’ve been nothing but gentle.
“Guide Dogs hasn’t been able to justify taking my dog away from me. They’re ignoring my questions but at the same time they want me to jump through hoops,” Gannon said.
Gannon, 59, said that the situation had damaged his health, including sleeplessness and flare-ups of gout. He fears that losing his dog would severely affect his life.
When he had been without a guide dog in the past he had become very agoraphobic, he said. “I doubt I’d ever go out. “I’ve become so used to working with a guide dog I wouldn’t be able to cope. I’d be empty.”
Without a dog provided through the charity, Gannon said he would have to find the money to buy one himself, and then train it, which would take at least 18 months.
“I’m kind of on the run at the moment. They’re just looking at any excuse to take my dog away. I just don’t trust Guide Dogs any more,” he said.
A spokesperson for Guide Dogs said: “The health and wellbeing of the people we support, and our dogs, is of the utmost importance to us. We’re currently working with Mr Gannon to establish the best way forward for his guidedog partnership with Usher.” She added that the charity could not comment further owing to confidentiality issues.
Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and the former deputy editor of the environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @.