WOKING welcomed the Mid Surrey Branch of Guide Dogs this month when a collection in Jubilee Square raised almost £300.

“It was wonderful to be able to get out and engage with the public, who made us feel so welcome,” said branch secretary Gillian Light.  “We raised a total of £284.58, so thank you to everyone who stopped to support us.

“The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the charity’s fundraising, and the branch has only been able to raise 10% of our normal total this year.

“The charity relies on donations from the public, but with the change in spending behaviour very few people are carrying cash.

“As a branch we aim to have a minimum of at least one activity per month, although, Woking aside, we have only been able to hold one other collection this year, in Guildford.

“That raised £87, which we’re grateful for, but on average that particular collection would raise around £1,000.”

To put that in perspective, it costs £34,600 to breed and train a single guide dog, and £54,800 to support a guide dog from birth to retirement. Supporting each of the dogs costs £13 a day.

During lockdown the training process had to stop, delaying the puppies becoming qualified guide dogs.

“The impact on the socialisation of the pups has been significant,” Gillian added. “No training classes, no access to shops, public transport and busy shopping areas, for instance, even the lack of personal contact from people visiting their homes, has all had an impact on the dogs’ training.

“Nationally, we have 850 people waiting for a guide dog, and without a guide dog many owners lose the confidence to go outside.

“With clubs and societies being closed our branch has not received invitations to speak, or received invitations from local businesses to bring our puppies out to meet staff, so we’re really trying to re-establish that contact.

“If there are any companies who could offer the branch the opportunity to be their charity of the year, or if you would like to open up a room for a meet and greet with our puppies, do please contact us.

“For clubs and societies, we can offer a speaker to attend your meeting and provide more information about the charity.

“We would appreciate your help so much.”

* TO donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/guide-dogs-mid-surrey-branch. To contact the Mid Surrey branch, or if you would like to volunteer to help at fundraising events, email [email protected].