Monday, 17 December 2012

In Dogs We Trust 9th December 2012
Picture of Renton giving Ian a paw at the dinner table

It was November 1980, I wasn’t long out of school and my only experience of moving about in the street, park, or school playground was to slowly tap my way around my environment with a white cane. I am completely blind, so my world was full of noises with a cane e.g.... Whack the bin, click some plastic on the ground. tap of the brick wall. I had never moved quickly using a white stick and I will never forget the sensation the first time I got to test drive a guide dog. The dog was a large shaggy golden retriever, the Harley Davidson of the doggy world. The way the dog could move and sway around obstacles was thrilling as I hung on to the handle attached to the harness. I moved down the pavement quickly and smoothly, wind was blowing through my hair and my journey was filled with normal people shopping sounds rather than damn tapping which just reminded me that I was blind and couldn’t easily find my way about.  I loved working with the dog and two years later, I finally got my first ever Guide Dog. I have to say here that  the dogs don't arrive, shrink wrapped ready to go.  A huge amount of work has still to be done building up the relationship and trust, between blind person and dog. 

In March 2010 I made a documentary for BBC Scotland called “Born to Lead.” This documentary followed the process of retiring one guide dog and being matched with a new guide dog.  This new seven stone German Shepherd was called Renton while being a beautiful worker had a personalty to match his bulk!

Daisy the Cancer detection dog chomping on a bone
Now  we are a solid working team as he guides me  across the country covering all kinds of news stories for BBC Scotland.

My latest documentary; “In Dogs We Trust?” not only brings viewers uptodate with Rentons development but introduces the new ground breaking world of assistance dogs. 
I was keen  to explore how dogs are helping people with other disabilities.  The program highlights, the hidden talents of  dogs which can help humans in a variety of ways, not just being a guide or sniffer dog.  For example Serena, trusts the family pet spaniel, Molly to let her know when her ten year old son Steven is about to have a diabetic hypo. Molly can do something that science can’t. That is, let Steven and his mother know in advance that his blood sugar is falling and that they need to take action.  As part of my documentary, we witness the remarkable experience of Molly alerting Steven to his blood level dropping. As the crew and I were filming, Molly was the only one that was aware of Steven’s blood  sugar changing. 

So, we discover that dogs can work with humans who have an array of requirements, diabetes, epilepsy, deafness, physical disability and autism. With epilepsy, the dogs have an astonishing ability to predict seizures, 100% of the time. A remarkable figure, which is backed up by the Support Dog Charity who we visit during the programme(they train the dogs) 

If that wasn’t impressive enough, we meet a dog on the edge of medical science. It’s being trained to detect one of humans prevalent diseases, cancer. There have been no shortage of anecdotal stories of dogs discovering cancer in their owners. Yet, there is still plenty of scepticism among the cancer research community about using dogs to detect cancer. We talked to one dog training charity who claim that they are getting closer to finding an affective way of training dogs to detect this decease. 

Dizzy the diabetic alerter dog with his young owner 
So, we humans are trusting dogs to assist in saving lives where technology is struggling to find the same practical solutions.  It is amazing to think that there are over 6 million dogs in the UK and yet such little research has been done to understand how the dog\human symbiotic relationship  can be developed further.

Ian and Midas  the dog during filming

“In Dogs we Trust” Monday 17th December on BB1 Scotland, presented by Ian Hamilton   @ihamiltonbbc
Camera Charles Ross
Director/Producer Nichola Blackmore
Executive Producer Marcus Ryder

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