Northland guide dog set for retirement


If every dog has its day, Kaitaia's best-known canine has just about had his.

Guide dog Prince, who has served David Senior faithfully for the past eight years, is about to go into retirement. He'll be 10 on Thursday, and while he won't reach the compulsory retirement age for another year his health hasn't been the best of late, so in a couple of weeks he'll be heading to a new home in Auckland for what David hopes will be a long and happy retirement.

"Guide dogs work hard for eight or nine years, and it wouldn't be fair to keep them in work when they get to the point where age is catching up with them," says David.

He was not expecting the goodbye to be easy, although it would not be as traumatic as it was for some. Some guide dog owners grieved deeply for their companions when it was time for the dogs to retire, he said, but David had plenty of interests and activities to keep him busy, and he had always seen his as working dogs first and pets second.

David, who lost his sight when he was 13, does not let his blindness slow him down. His community involvement includes holding a seat on Te Hiku Community Board, and he and Prince are regularly seen walking around Kaitaia's streets.

But while he had no doubt that a new dog, his fourth ("Fourth and a half; one didn't really work out and it became a matter of letting it go or letting my wife go. I'd been married 30 years, so it was probably best to look for another dog,") will do just as good a job as Prince, the golden Labrador will leave some indelible memories.

Prince unerringly takes David to shops that are well known to him, the list including Shackleton's Chemist, where a bowl of water might well be awaiting him on a hot day.

In fact he's been known to head for a likely source of water whether David wants to go there or not. He also knows where the local butcher is to be found.

Prince has a dark side too though. He has form as a shoplifter, although it is more a liking for holding things in his mouth than a Labrador's legendary appetite that drives him to that.

"He pinched something from Paper Plus the other day," David said candidly.

Prince's successor will be an almost-two-year-old black Labrador by the name of Wade. He and David will meet in Kaitaia early next month.

"It's just a matter of matching me and the dog, and bonding, which will take about 10 days."

And how does a man who has never seen Kaitaia get around so confidently, even with a dog? David said he had been given a raised map of the town to study and memorise. He was still having trouble finding his way around Te Ahu, however, and hoped one day to get his hands on a raised outline of the complex so he could envision it in his mind.

- Northern Advocate

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