One pawsome organisation: A look back at the Irish Guide Dogs

One pawsome organisation: A look back at the Irish Guide Dogs
Presentation of cheque to Mary Dunlop, Irish Guide Dogs Association at Innishannon Hotel, Co. Cork, 1978. 

FOLLOWING on from Roy Keane’s Late Late Show appearance last night as charity ambassador for the Irish Guide Dogs, we took the opportunity to trawl through The Echo archives to take a look at one of the city’s most impactful charities.

The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind began as a humble enterprise, established in a small farmhouse by Corkman Jim Dennehy, who founded the charity in 1976 after losing his sight eight years prior. 

Over the decades, the charity has managed to transform the lives of thousands of people.

In 2018, Mr Dennehy was honoured by UCC with a doctorate of law in recognition for his astounding charitable services. 

Speaking at the time, Mr Dennehy recalled how Ireland’s attitude to blind individuals has changed over time.

Trainers at the Irish Guide Dogs Association in Cork, Cliona O'Rourke, Karen Duke, Elaine Cannon, Libby Lea and Breda Clancy Development Manager with a newly born litter of thirteen labrador puppies in 2001. Picture: Des Barry
Trainers at the Irish Guide Dogs Association in Cork, Cliona O'Rourke, Karen Duke, Elaine Cannon, Libby Lea and Breda Clancy Development Manager with a newly born litter of thirteen labrador puppies in 2001. Picture: Des Barry

"When I was young, blind people were hidden out of sight," he said. 

"Irish society didn’t understand that someone with blindness could achieve so much, and often times more, than someone with vision.

"Now so many young blind people attend UCC and contribute so much to life here. 

"I’m just so very proud to be amongst them and this Doctorate means so much to me and my family."

Roy Keane with working guide dog 'Benny' at the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, 2003. 
Roy Keane with working guide dog 'Benny' at the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, 2003. 

Over the years, countless well-known figures have supported the charity organisation, but none more staunchly than Roy Keane.

Speaking about his long-standing relationship with the charity, Mr Dennehy lauded the former Manchester United player for his continued support.

"It’s so important that we continue to grow," he said. 

"Since day one we’ve kept building. 

"Of course, there have been some very difficult years but the generosity of people has always allowed us to kick on.

"And the support of our ambassador Roy Keane has been crucial. 

"He’s proud to help us out and we’re so thrilled to have him on board."

Members of the Red Watch, Cork City Fire Brigade with, Marguerite McGuaid Development Director Irish Guide Dogs, Melanie Dolan, guide dog trainer, Elaine Cannon, guide dog trainer and Nuala Geraghty, guide dog trainer with guide dogs, Pete, Kerry and Angie at the Anglesea Street Fire Station in 2003. Picture: Gavin Browne 
Members of the Red Watch, Cork City Fire Brigade with, Marguerite McGuaid Development Director Irish Guide Dogs, Melanie Dolan, guide dog trainer, Elaine Cannon, guide dog trainer and Nuala Geraghty, guide dog trainer with guide dogs, Pete, Kerry and Angie at the Anglesea Street Fire Station in 2003. Picture: Gavin Browne 

In addition, the charity has garnered local, national and international support from the Irish Naval Service, the Fire Brigade, prominent business people and the ordinary people of Cork and beyond.

In 2005, Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli showed his support for the Irish Guide Dogs when he was in Cork, performing at a concert in Collins Barracks.

Andrea Bocelli meeting four-month-old Clint, a guide dog puppy with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, in his dressing room after the concert in Collins Barracks in 2005. Also included are: from left, Alison Flack, puppy walker; Ken Bryder, guide dog trainer and Cllr. Deirdre Clune, Lord Mayor of Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheed 
Andrea Bocelli meeting four-month-old Clint, a guide dog puppy with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, in his dressing room after the concert in Collins Barracks in 2005. Also included are: from left, Alison Flack, puppy walker; Ken Bryder, guide dog trainer and Cllr. Deirdre Clune, Lord Mayor of Cork. Picture: Brian Lougheed 

The Irish Guide Dogs celebrated a milestone in 2016, with President Michael D Higgins visited the National Headquarters and Training Centre to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the charity organisation.

As well as changing the lives of so many blind and visually impaired people, the Irish Guide Dogs also train dogs to support the families of children with autism.

Mum of four, Lenore Good, who writes a monthly column The Echo recounted last November how Ebbi, the assistance dog that her family was allocated, has had a profound impact on their lives.

Lenore, who will climb Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the charity in September this year, said the feat is nothing in comparison to the freedom the dog has afforded the family.

"Ebbi will be the one who will enable us to actually leave our house, maybe go to a restaurant for the first time together, or even the cinema, do an actual food shop or — wait for it — go on a holiday some day," she said. 

"And for this alone, I would climb Kilimanjaro ten times over."

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