Blind pensioner who carried Olympic torch has guide dog confiscated… because it walks too SLOWLY

January 14, 2014 | by | 1 Comment

A blind pensioner who carried the Olympic torch after raising thousands for a Guide Dogs charity was left heartbroken when the organisation confiscated her Labrador – because she walks too SLOWLY.

Shirley Waller, 80, was left devastated when she was told she could no longer keep her beloved seven-year-old dog Alfie.

The pensioner is now forced to use a white cane and has to be taken out for walks by sighted volunteers.

Shirley Waller carrying the Olympic flame with her guide dog Alfie, who has now been confiscated for walking too slow

Shirley Waller carrying the Olympic flame with her guide dog Alfie, who has now been confiscated for walking too slow

National charity Guide Dogs for the Blind told her she could no longer keep Alfie after he chewed a leather glove and was forced to have an operation to remove it last June.

But Shirley, from Market Deeping, Lincs., who has lived with guide dogs for 25 years, said the charity refused to give her Alfie back or provide another dog because she walks too slowly.

She sobbed: “They said they were taking Alfie away because I couldn’t look after him.

“They said I couldn’t have another dog because I walk too slowly.

“I can’t get my head around it. I feel after 25 years of being able to go out and about, now I can’t because I have had to revert back to a white cane.

Heartbroken Shirley beside a picture of her an Alfie

Heartbroken Shirley beside a picture of her an Alfie

“I am 80 and learning to use a white cane is not an easy task.

“My walking has suffered because I have not been able to get out and about. I’m stuck at home waiting for any kind person to come and take me for a walk.”

Shirley spent years raising thousands of pounds for Guide Dogs for the Blind and was even nominated to carry the Olympic torch through her home town in July 2012.

She asked for a retired guide dog to keep her company when Alfie need surgery last June but the charity refused.

In another cruel twist, she has also been banned from giving talks about the charity’s work to schools and adult groups because she does not have a guide dog to accompany her.

Shirley added: “I feel completely and utterly let down. I have worked for the charity in all
weathers collecting, doing talks to raise awareness of what they are like.

“I was so happy to do it because they had got me out of this dark world, but now they have pushed me back into it.

“I have lost my confidence. I’m not the person I was.”

A spokesman for Guide Dogs for the Blind refused to comment on the reasons for not letting Shirley have another guide dog.

He said: “We care very deeply about the health and wellbeing of our guide dogs and, as Mrs Waller’s dog was experiencing health issues, we made the difficult decision to retire him early.

“We understand that losing her guide dog has been a very tough for Mrs Waller. Guide dogs are life-changing for their owners and so to be parted from one can be difficult.

“In circumstances such as these, we assess the our service user’s needs individually to see if there are other ways we can help them to get out and about on their own terms, and we’re now supporting Mrs Waller with long cane training and our My Guide sighted guiding service.

“For someone to qualify with a guide dog we need to know that they would be getting out and about on a regular basis with their dog, have appropriate living conditions and would be able to care for their dog accordingly.”

Mum-of-seven Shirley Waller tragically lost one of her sons in a helicopter crash after the Chelsea v Liverpool Champions League semi-final in May 2007.

Jonathan Waller, 42, was flying back from the game – which Liverpool won on penalties – with millionaire Philip Carter, 44, his teenage son Andrew and pilot Stephen Holdich, 49.

The twin-engined Squirrel helicopter came down in thick fog close to Chelsea vice-president Mr Carter’s home in Cambridgeshire.

Shirley was born in Manchester where she worked as a nurse until she met her husband Albert at a YMCA dance.

The couple moved to Peterborough in 1977 when Albert came out of the RAF and had seven children – David, Adrian, Janet, Richard, Robert, Jonathan and Heather.

As well as losing Jonathan in 2007, Shirley also tragically lost her daughter Heather six years ago.

Shirley and Albert had planned to move to North Wales in their retirement but Albert was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Shirley lost her sight.

The couple decided to move to Market Deeping, Lincs., instead and Albert passed away in 2001.

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