PENARTH is a great place to raise a guide dog puppy, according to residents Stephen and Sandra Arthur.

The retired couple began volunteering for Guide Dogs three years ago, and are now raising their second puppy, a six-month-old black Labrador retriever named Gem.

They are responsible for teaching Gem basic obedience and getting her used to a home environment, noise and the bustle of a town. They will also prepare the puppy for her future as a working guide dog by taking her on trains and buses, and into shops.

After a year or so in their care, Gem will return to the charity to begin specialised guide dog training.

“It was a challenge at first, especially as we never owned a dog before, but we felt it was a really worthwhile thing to do,” said Mrs Arthur.

“I was aware of the isolation experienced by many people with a vision impairment and wanted to make a difference by giving something back to the community. It’s been life-enhancing for us, and we’ve made all sorts of friends.

“Penarth town is a really good place to train a guide dog puppy, with a small arcade and local shops. People are very amenable and love being part of Gem’s education. We have the Esplanade, beaches and country parks, and we’ve even taken her to Ikea.

"People are very interested in the puppy and we rarely go on a walk without someone enquiring about what we are doing. Gem is so sociable and would like to say hello to everyone.”

The couple remember vividly the arrival of their first guide dog puppy, a yellow Labrador retriever named Gilly.

“We were excited, very well prepared, and fell in love with her straight away,” said Mrs Arthur. “It was the most joyful and wonderful experience, but you have to be prepared to put in the hard work to train the puppy.

“Handing her back after a year was hard, but we were kept informed of her progress and we’re proud that she is now a qualified guide dog.”

The charity is seeking more puppy raisers in the Vale of Glamorgan area. Volunteers need access to a car and must be free to spend time with the puppy for most of the day. Their yard or garden will also need to be securely fenced so that the puppy remains safely within its confines.

Guide Dogs supplies basic equipment, covers all veterinary and feeding expenses, and provides a network of support and advice.

To find out more about becoming a puppy raiser for Guide Dogs, ring Steve Kersley on 07785 907728 and leave a message, or email