A specialist field trip to Oxford has given Cornish students the chance to witness the empowerment that well trained guide dogs give blind people.
The group of students, all currently working towards their foundation degree in Animal Husbandry & Welfare at Cornwall College Newquay, were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of a range of specialist animal rehabilitation and conservation establishments.
While visiting the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, they took part in an interactive exercise to help them better understand the sensation of blindness. After being blindfolded, the students were led around an obstacle course by others playing the role of a guide dog.
Student Emily Hall recalled the experience: “As soon as you can’t see anything and are expected to walk around obstructions, you can’t help but let the panic set in. You don’t quite trust that you weren’t about to painfully walk into something, but you knew they wouldn’t let it happen. Every ounce of you relies on your guide for confidence, without them and only your hearing and touch, the world becomes a dangerous place. These guide dogs really are empowering people.”
There were also a range of working dogs at various stages of their training on hand. Training demonstrations were given throughout the visit to illustrate the methods used to teach the dogs to complete complex tasks.
Zoology Lecturer Jo Vosper from Cornwall College Newquay explained the importance of the field trip to the students: “It is extremely difficult to visit some of the amazing animal training centres throughout the UK due to our location here in Cornwall, therefore I felt the need to develop an inexpensive residential trip based in Oxford. I have designed the trip to complement both our Animal Behaviour and Psychology and the Animal Husbandry and Welfare foundation degree programmes.”
“The purpose of the field trip is to gain a comprehensive insight into the rehabilitation and training of animals, the business structures and funding difficulties plus the day to day practicalities that these organisations face. Visits are made to the UK Wolf Trust, Redwings Horse Sanctuary, Hearing Dogs Centre, Guide Dogs for the Blind and included a guided tour of facilities, lectures and training demonstrations by the relevant experts.”
Emily said that the trip “was worth every penny”.
“Each of the organisations we visited were more than welcoming and showed us great hospitality, making each facility that little bit more enjoyable,” she continued.
“To visit a range of animals, in different circumstances was eye opening to see just how many types of job are available when it comes to working with animals. The trip helped to develop an understanding of just how much work goes in to these kinds of organisations and how they themselves could find a position in their chosen career. The trip was full of smiles and laughter, and everyone was gutted to be leaving. Several students have made comments on wanting to return to Oxford and even take part in the residential again! Thank you to the staff at Cornwall College for such a wonderful trip and opportunity, lots of memories made for all of us and many new friendships formed.”
For more information on the Zoology, Marine and Animal Management courses available at Cornwall College Newquay visit www.cornwall.ac.uk or call 0845 22 32 567.