Guide Dog in Malta
I was used to traveling on a plane between Exeter (where I was born and trained) and the Channel Island of Guernsey (where my new master lived) but I was not sure what he meant when he told me we were going to live abroad.
My regular trips to see the girls at the Vets were great fun, lots of attention and treats, but one day I was given a couple of jabs with a needle! The shock soon wore off when I was asked to pose for a photo to be used in something called a „Pet Passport‟.
Seven months later I trotted up the steps of a plane for the short flight back to England, looking forward to meeting all my friends, especially Mizzi, the Black Lab/Poodle cross. I was surprised to be loaded onto something called a „Buggy‟ as we were steered through crowds of humans at Gatwick
Airport and on to another plane. This one was bigger and I even had a space to myself between my „foster parents‟. The nice young ladies welcomed me and made a fuss of me throughout the flight, (whilst carrying out their normal duties of course).
SPACE FOR POSSIBLE PHOTO OF ZAC AND OWNER ALONGSIDE GB AIRWAYS
I slept most of the way and was ready to find a patch of grass when the jet landed. First I had to be checked out by a nice man to see if it was me on the pet passport, then we collected our bags and were heading for a car when I managed to make my needs known. What a relief after 3 hours sitting still!
After a one-hour trip by road we were put on a ship. I had been on one before but that didn‟t have a
lift! I love going up and down in lifts. Soon we got into another car and eventually reached a place called „an apartment‟. This was like our home but a lot warmer.
Here we are on our first walk in Dala with the
islands of Comino and Malta in the background.
Later (below), we investigate a local playground
During the next few days I met a lot of people like my owner. They could not see properly but they had to have help from a relative or friend in order to make their way about the place. I soon learned
the reason for our visit. I was to be a sort of „Guinea Pig‟ (funny – thought I was a Black Lab
Cross!). I was to show visually impaired people just how better they could cope if hey had one and I was also to go to Cafes, Hotels, Shops and Buses to demonstrate how a Guide Dog should behave.
Gosh! I resolved to be on my very best behaviour at all times and try to „merge into the background‟ as I had been taught. This I managed very well. (All right, so my nose just happened to sniff out the occasional „tit-bit‟ on the floor!). The only thing I
did not like was called „shopping‟ where I had to guide my owner along narrow aisles which
contained nasty wheeled trellised and between the most amazing and succulent smells.
I was always rewarded after
one of these trips so that made
it better. I had been taught
definitely NOT to accept any
food from strangers and I knew
that I had to keep within my
Our tour around the placed we
lived (called Go-zo or
„Awdesh‟) was really great fun,
meeting other people and their
pets. Unfortunately we could
not find a park for me to have a
run in but a big beach with red
sand was the next best thing.
My job is to use my eyes to
spot hazards that my owner
cannot see and to warn him.
That means my eyes are 20-20
and I enjoyed going to many
different places. The views
across the country and sea
were terrific, I am sorry I
cannot show my owner what
he is missing.
Making friends at Carnival time in Nadur. I even got to lead the band! (Is-Surmast Kelb)
One day we went to see the Gozo Crafts Village and I watched men make wonderful glass object
after blowing ever so hard into a long pipe. Next we saw someone bend and shape metal into all kind of useful and pretty objects. Then it was off to see a lady „plonk‟ a piece
of clay onto a flat wheel, set it spinning and make me a new drinking bowl. Next was a room full of smells called „beeswax‟ where I nearly mistook a wax apple for a real one; finally I peered up at a man who was
creating the most amazing miniature shapes out of pure silver. We had lots of time to wander around and everyone accepted me. I wonder why there were no other visitors.
I stopped a number of times on this tour to have my photo taken. (My favorite hobby). We were welcomed in most places but a couple of hotels and restaurants said “no”. I
was very sorry for my master because it meant he could not go in, or stay there overnight, either.
At Ta’Pinu Sanctuary we both prayed for those who are disabled and visually impaired. I do hope there are more Guide Dogs here soon.
Now I have been told that this will be our home for ever. That suits me fine. I am looking forward to helping my master raise funds in Gozo and Malta so that a Guide Dog centre can be set up here. Judging by the tanks I get for helping him retain his independence that will be time well spent.
Transcribed and edited from comments by Zac, a qualified Guide Dog, in conversation with his owner.
Qala, Gozo, February 2007
Photos by Mary Attard (Bugibba)
Footnote. Zac‟s owner and his Maltese friends are trying to „Make a Difference‟ for the Visually Impaired in Malta. The Foundation is a member of the EGDF and will soon be affiliated to the IGDF,
thanks to help from colleagues in the UK, France, Italy and Slovakia. Puppy walkers and a recently
retired GDMI are being sought for this project. The first three trained dogs are expected in Malta in
October 2008 - perhaps Zac will find a girlfriend to replace Odele, his companion in Guernsey.
To make a donation that will help launch the Malta Guide Dog centre, please contact
The Secretary, Guide Dogs Foundation, 22 Old College Str.
Sliema SLM 1372. Phone; 21338669 or 79595155. E mail,