Photo recall: Damp welcome for puppy in training

By Poppy Wortman

Photo / Mark Mitchell, Photo research / Emma Land
Photo / Mark Mitchell, Photo research / Emma Land

It was being a self-described "animal-holic" that had Chris Crofskey waiting in the pouring rain to pick up her new puppy.

Claude, the first Rhodesian ridgeback to be trained as a guide dog in Australasia, had just flown from Christchurch to Auckland. Donated to the Foundation for the Blind by a Southland family, Claude was to move in with the Crofskey family before beginning intensive guide dog training.

Pictured are the two getting to know each other in 1989 at a welcome ceremony on One Tree Hill. It was Crofskey's first go at hosting a seeing-eye dog and, she enthuses, the experience was "absolutely fantastic".

"We had to socialise them," she explains. "We walked them through streets and shops and what not, getting people not to touch them and socialising them with other animals as well."

Crofskey insists dogs really are man's best friend.

"They're not only good for the blind, but for the deaf, paraplegic, and they're good for sniffing out seizures and cancer too."

Unfortunately, Claude never made the guide dog grade, being withdrawn partway through his puppy development because of his behaviour around other canines.

"Not all guide puppies make it, there's only got to be one slight fault," Crofskey says. "Nothing serious, but for a blind person it would be. When a dog doesn't pass you find a good home for them. Claude was very inquisitive and turned out to be a bloody good dog."

Crofskey continued hosting guide puppies for a further two years, before joining the Civil Defence and becoming a search dog handler for a decade.

"I have a photo album of all my animals over the years," she laughs. "I just love them, especially dogs. I haven't had any for the last two years and I miss having animals. They just give you unconditional love."

- Herald on Sunday

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