MEET DOREEN " RAFFLE QUEEN"
Doreen has been an active member of West Leeds Walking Group since its official formation in 2004 and was actually walking prior to this with a small group who were approached and asked if it could be organised on a more formal basis.
It was following the sad death of her husband and being given a leaflet to read on bereavement, that Doreen decided to follow the advice given, which was to get out and about, meet new friends, and do something which she would not have done with her husband.
Consequently Doreen started walking and exercise classes. Apart from walking with the group every Monday on our longer walks and on Fridays on local walks, Doreen manages to fit in four exercise classes a week and enjoys Fitball, Circuit Training, Yoga and Trx, which to the uninitiated is a form of suspension training using straps to elevate the body. As some of these are carried out with a musical background it also encompasses another of Doreen's loves - all types of music. We must also add that Doreen is a very keen and knowledgable gardener, having only recently given up her allotment, but still managing her daughters garden.
Doreen is a valued member of our volunteer walking group committee and with her lively personality is the ideal person to manage the raffles we hold on our walks. She also caters for our quarterly meetings, our AGM and our Christmas party and produces a delicious array of sandwiches, savouries and cakes.
Always cheerful, Doreen says she particularly enjoys the social side of the walking group as we are a friendly bunch who like to have a natter and lunch after our walks and maybe partake in a glass of wine!
Following her bereavement Doreen made the conscious decision to make hersellf useful, get involved and contribute, which is excellent advice to those who may have lost someone and now feel lonely.
We are fortunate to have such a willing member on the team.
MEET RITA "WALK LEADER"
Rita joined the walking group about a year ago when her "family" Niiki and Peter moved permanently from London to Yorkshire and very quickly became a firm favourite with our walkers.
She is, of course, a fully qualified "walk leader" having undergone extensive training with a puppy walker from the age of 6 weeks. Rita is exceptionally bright and graduated as a guide dog at the age of 18 months, when she was handed over to Nikki for three weeks induction training. Some dogs take as long as 2 years to reach the standard required and not all are found to be suitable. It is vital that the dog matches the owners needs, and as Nikki is a very active person, Rita needed to be able to cope with that.
Having lived in the capital and negotiated the Tube and London transport Rita has quickly adapted to her new surroundings in the North. She is in fact well travelled having flown to the US a couple of years ago and visited several of the southern states, where guide dogs are made particularly welome at hotels and restuarants etc.
Rita walks with us every Monday and joins us for our Monthly Wanders. She actually walks around 30 miles a week with Nikki and apart from walking Rita (and Nikki!) is an avid Leeds United supporter travelling to all home and away games. She is well known to fellow supporters and the players. Being fully conversant with the rules of the game, Rita barks loudly when Leeds United score but ignores an off side or own goal.
Nikki has to give Rita discipline traning every two weeks to keep her on her toes and Rita has to undergo and annual assessment of her skills and fitness levels by an an official from the Guide Dogs Association. Rita must also have an annual health check at the vets as it is vital that she does not become overweight. The walkers have learned not to offer Rita snacks during our walks, which Rita would readily accept, but we realise that she is a working dog and we must not distract her when she is on the job. Of course she gets lots of pats and kind words when we have a break.
The normal "retirement" age for a guide dog is 9/10 years when they are found a good home to enjoy a less busy life.
It costs over £55,000 for each dog from birth to retirement and all owners pay the sum of 50p for a licence, regardless of their means, when the dog is handed over to them. All food and vets bills are paid for by the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
West Leeds Walking Group is proud to support Guide Dogs for the Blind as one of it's charities this year.