Give it up for Guide Dogs

Salisbury Journal: Debbie Furnell with her guide dog Mary Debbie Furnell with her guide dog Mary

THE story of a woman whose life has been transformed by her guide dog has been used to highlight the need to train as many dogs as possible to help people with sight loss or other conditions.

Debbie Furnell,  from Salisbury, began to lose her sight through complications with diabetes while she was pregnant with her daughter Amy, now ten.

And by the time she gave birth, she could barely see her daughter’s face. She became isolated – stopping working and spending more time indoors – but it was two years before she was matched with her beloved guide dog Mary, when her life completely changed. She said: “Mary has given me my independence back. I was getting very lonely and isolated at home.”

The dog made such a difference to Mrs Furnell’s life that, in 2011, she felt confident enough to start the Salisbury branch of Guide Dogs, which has just raised enough money to name and train a third guide dog, Lewis.

“Without Mary, I would never have been organising something like this,” she said.

And this Christmas, Mrs Furnell was chosen to be one of the faces of the Guide Dogs Christmas campaign, appearing in national newspapers and even travelling to London to chat to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on ITV’s This Morning.

“It was going to be recorded but then when I got there they said that as Mary was so well-behaved and I was confident it would be live,” she said. “Holly and Phillip were lovely, just as nice as they are on TV, and everyone loved Mary.

“I thought she might be worried by all the lights, but she wasn’t at all. They had a big, fluffy rug and she settled down, and nearly went to sleep!

“I still can’t believe that I am doing these things – it’s all down to Mary.”

Every hour in the UK, another person loses their sight. To train one guide dog to help one person costs £50,000.

On the back of the Christmas campaign, Guide Dogs is urging people across the country to Give it up for Guide Dogs, raising sponsorship by giving something up for January.

Mrs Furnell is hoping the Salisbury branch will be able to raise enough money to train another one or two dogs in the coming year to transform other lives as Mary has transformed hers.

To sign up to the Give it Up for Guide Dogs campaign contact Mrs Furnell on 01722 335755 or email


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