Val McKenzie Smith, 80, who is blind, is being asked to give up her beloved black labrador retriever, Hans, after he increased in size to be 1.3kg over the preferred weight for guide dogs.
Hans packed on the kilos during England’s lockdown because Smith’s support team was not able to walk him. Her daughter had broken her leg, so she was unavailable, too.
Smith is trying hard to get Hans to drop a few more pounds.
“But if you diet him too much he just scavenges because he’s hungry,” she told The Daily Mail.
Smith and Hans have been a highly successful team for six years.
The trusty guide dog helps Smith with everyday tasks, such as picking up dropped items, removing Smith’s jacket and socks, opening doors, collecting the mail, and – importantly – providing security as Smith lives alone.
“He’s my companion and he guides my electric wheelchair, like when I go to the shops, and I wouldn’t be able to go out alone without him.
“If I drop the phone or anything I can’t see, he picks it up. He helps pull my socks off, he’ll pull one arm of my jacket and then go round the back to pull the other to help take it off.
“I have balls tied to doors, so he pulls or pushes them shut. He’s very clever and I need him.”
The charity that is helping Smith find a new dog, Guide Dogs, has indicated it won’t let her keep Hans as a pet.
Hans, who is 8 years old, has “more than just a weight issue,” the charity said, according to The Daily Mail. Hans also has “ongoing problems” with his joints and a shoulder injury.
Smith plans to appeal the decision this week.
A Guide Dogs spokesperson told The Daily Mail, “We appreciate how difficult this situation is for Mrs Mckenzie-Smith.
“Removing a dog is not something we take lightly.”
They said at Hans’ age guide dogs are usually put into retirement. However, some owners choose to keep the dog as a pet, an option not open to Smith this time, though she has kept her last four guide dogs.
Canine Partners told The Daily Mail they have supported Smith and Hans over the years and have been helping to try to resolve Hans’ weight gain, plus other issues.
“Canine Partners supports the Guide Dogs welfare review process to ensure the consideration of the welfare for both the dog and partner are taken into consideration,” they said.
Smith lost her sight at 17 after contracting tuberculous meningitis, and now uses a wheelchair.