A canine companion dubbed ‘Britain’s worst guide dog’ for wandering off to eat food and stopping in the street has been forced to retire – but has found a forever home.
Victoria, a four-year-old black Labrador, worked to support Frankie Tipton, who is registered blind, but she always struggled to remember her training.
Once, she almost led Frankie off a railway platform after being distracted by another dog.
She would also wander off and eat food from bags under desks at Frankie’s workplace, Thames Water in Reading, Berkshire.
Guide Dogs attempted to retrain Victoria and improve her behaviour but she eventually had to retire as she was not enjoying working life.
She has now been adopted by Kirsty Halford, Frankie’s colleague at Thames Water, who lives with her family in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Kirsty had already walked Victoria on a number of occasions and agreed to adopt her ‘in a heartbeat’ after Frankie asked if she would consider it.
She said: “She loves the fact she doesn’t have to be walked on the lead everywhere she goes, and absolutely loves playing catch with her ball when we go out for long family walks.
“Guide Dogs worked with Frankie and Victoria to try and retrain her and look at her behaviours, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It is sad, but she wasn’t enjoying being a working dog – she just wanted to be a family pet.
“It was better for his sake, and hers, that she retired early, and we’re so happy to be able to give her the life she wanted.”
Frankie hopes to be reunited with Victoria over Christmas but is keen to give her time to settle into her new home.
He described Victoria as a ‘lovely soul’ but said she had never settled as a working dog.
He said: “At first she was great, but she had too much free will, and would often just stop in the middle of the street – which wasn’t ideal.”
He added: “I’m on the waiting list for another guide dog but can still get around with my white cane.
“I do miss Victoria as a family dog. I’m just so happy my friend and colleague Kirsty and her family have been able to take her on. I know all their lives will be so much happier as a result.”
A spokesman for Guide Dogs said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have so many people offering fantastic new homes for our withdrawn and retired guide dogs.
“We rehome our dogs for a variety of different reasons, and their new owners always leave with advice to help settle in their new dog.”