They melt hearts as puppies and change lives when fully grown – and it’s all thanks to the woman raising three generations of guide dogs. Sandra Cox, 60, volunteers for the Guide Dogs charity, providing a safe and loving home to expecting guide dog mums.
She supports them when they give birth and cares for the litter until the puppies are eight weeks old.
Sandra’s journey with the charity started six years ago when her children left for university. Her youngest son was terrified of dogs so the mum-of-four applied to be a volunteer, to help and encourage him to overcome his fear.
Soon after, Poppy joined the family. Sandra, from Bucking-hamshire, said: “We had never had a dog before and the thought of looking after this totally amazing little puppy was quite daunting.”
But with the help of her daughter Annie and support from the charity, she is now raising three generations of guide dogs including golden retriever Riley from Poppy’s first litter, and her 11-month-old puppy Vera.
Sandra, an exam invigilator said: “It is such a beautiful and magical thing to be part of.”
As with any other pet pooch, guide dog mums require regular walks, care, and company.
The sight-loss charity provides full support and training classes throughout, as well as vet bills, food and equipment.
Although she loves caring for the pups, it’s an emotional roller coaster, and doesn’t always go to plan.
Poppy once had puppies in the back seat of a car, and another in a vet’s car park. Sandra said: “It was quite a hair-raising experience.”
It is also a very rewarding time. She added: “It is a truly magical journey to be on, watching the tiny fur balls grow into the amazing dogs they are.”
Once the puppies are old enough, they move on to the next part of their journey as guide dogs. It’s a bittersweet time for Sandra.
She said: “It is a day mixed with great sadness and relief at the same time.”
Unlike the other two dogs, Vera is not going to be a mum and will be leaving in a few months to go on to the challenge of qualifying as a fully trained guide dog.
Sandra said: “It will be so hard to see her go, and a piece of our hearts will go with her. But we will all be so proud when she qualifies.”