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Faithful hospital dog retires after nearly a decade of service

todayDecember 14, 2020 14

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After nearly a decade of service at Lynn’s hospital, an assistance dog is set to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

Labrador Yazmin, who belongs to Queen Elizabeth Hospital medical secretary Jill Southgate, is set to retire on Friday at the age of 11.

The four-legged companion will enjoy her retirement at home with Mrs Southgate’s husband, who is also retired, as she welcomes a new assistance dog in the new year.

Jill Southgate and Jazmin. Picture: SUBMITTED
Jill Southgate and Jazmin. Picture: SUBMITTED

Mrs Southgate, who is blind, said Yazim has made “such a difference” to her life, giving her confidence and safety over the years.

The medical secretary initially worked with an electronic typewriter but now uses a computer with a voice synthesiser called JAWS provided by the NHS to carry out her work.

Mrs Southgate is an advocate for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and gives regular talks in schools and in the local community. She has also worked closely with the Trust to raise awareness and empower staff to take action and work inclusively with colleagues and patients assisted by guide dogs.

Training for guide dogs usually takes around 14 months, during which time they learn the basics which includes walking, recall, navigating public spaces and transport.

They then take a further three months at an advanced training centre before finding a suitable match built on the lifestyle and mobility needs of the owner. A five-week programme then ensures a match is right.

Mrs Southgate said: “It can take around six months to build complete trust with a new assistance dog.”

The usual retirement age for assistance dogs is 10, but with training restricted by Covid-19, Mrs Southgate will not be matched with her new dog until February.

She will use a white cane to aid her mobility until she is matched with her new dog.

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