On 20 June 2012 I lost my guide dog and my independence - all in the space of one horrific day.
The dog attack incident that I experienced is still in my memory. Every week I attended a computer training course at the Disability Partnership in Warrington, something I looked forward to each week because it helped to develop my skills in IT. On this particular day I'd finished the course and was walking back along the street to catch the bus, along with my guide dog, Bradley, a lovable yellow Labrador retriever cross that charity Guide Dogs had provided me with in 2010. All of a sudden it seemed that a large dog ran towards us. Bradley seemed to move in front of me. That's when I knew something was wrong. Someone later told me that the dog had appeared without an owner. The owner had left the dog in the care of his daughter and she had left the front door of her home open. This dog had subsequently escaped.
The dog started to attack Bradley. He was whimpering with fright and I didn't know what to do, so I picked him up to protect him from the attack. I wasn't sure what to do and at that point I didn't even consider that I might also be attacked. I just wanted to protect my dog. The staff from my computer training course came along after the commotion and they checked Bradley over. Fortunately the attacking dog had not punctured Bradley's skin as the harness had protected him somewhat. Once I'd seen the team, they suggested that I go to a friend's house nearby to help me calm down. Once there, I sat in delayed shock. I was shaken and my friend gave me a strong drink.
The incident was referred to a PCSO Officer and I was promised a letter of apology from the owner of the attacking dog. I never received a letter.
In the months following the attack, Bradley wasn't himself. He was eating, but losing weight, and seemed nervous in the area where the attack had occurred. In the end, I had to stop attending the computer course because Bradley was not confident in helping me get to the training centre. Some months after, while Bradley was at the Guide Dogs training centre for further training, the welfare officer said they wanted to review him. The decision was made that Bradley should retire. Following that, he didn't come back to me at home. He effectively was too nervous to be in service as a guide dog. I didn't have a guide dog for six-eight months following that. I had to rely on family and friends to get around. I missed Bradley greatly and still do. The attack had literally robbed me of my independence in one short moment. There was such a strong bond between me and Bradley. I felt angry and very upset.
Since then, I've got another guide dog called Macca. He's a real character and I'm glad to say that we have not experienced an attack. The Guide Dogs team have found a loving home for Bradley, however I will always remember him and the tremendous bond that we enjoyed.
I really welcome the new guidelines on dog attacks from the Sentencing Council. It's really important that dog owners are responsible and ensure their pets are under control, well trained and socialised. Owners of dogs that attack will face harsher sentences. Hopefully this approach to sentencing will prove a strong deterrent for irresponsible owners and help prevent the sort of attack that Bradley and I experienced. That's what I hope for.