Canine superman, best friend and great wingman: Meet SW Londoner reporter’s guide dog Banwell – in pics

A canine superman, best friend and a great wing man is how I would describe my guide dog Banwell.

For me every day is guide dog day but April 29 is International Guide Dog Day  – a day of recognition for all the hard work they do to help those who need extra help getting around independently.

I have a visual impairment called Retinitis Pigmentosa which is a deteriorating eye condition causing tunnel vision and night blindness and can lead to eventual loss of sight.

Banwell puppy Santa hat SWL
ADORABLE: Banwell rocking a Santa hat

I was diagnosed at the age of five but my sight was stable until I was 14 which is when it began to deteriorate.

Over the last few years I noticed that it became more difficult to get around in busy environments and at night which is why, in the summer of 2013 after finishing university, I took the decision to apply for a guide dog.

I was placed on the waiting list and in February 2014,  was matched with a two-year-old black Labrador called Banwell.

Banwell guide dog cuddle SWLLOOK INTO MY EYES! Despite such a mournful face Banwell has a sunny personality

The following month we em-barked  on intense training  with guide dog mobility instructor Magdalene.

The three weeks of training was a challenge but Banwell did a great job – after passing our training we were unleashed on the world.

I’m not going to lie, the first couple of months were tough.

Banwell guide dog lying on bed SWLPUPPY EYES: Banwell snuggling up to a toy monkey

Looking after a guide dog can be like looking after a child and there were times when I wondered if getting a guide dog was the right decision for me.

I’d always been independent and now walking around with a dog in hi-vis I stuck out like a sore thumb which took some getting used to!

Despite my early doubts I can now say that getting a guide dog is one of the best decisions I ever made.

Banwell guide dog grinning SWL
SAY CHEESE! Grinning during some down time

Banwell comes everywhere with me and I’ve noticed how much he helps me get around particularly in busy places especially in the dark.

It amazes me how quickly he remembers new routes and sometimes at how fast he likes to walk – it certainly keeps my fitness levels up!

He’s incredible at his job and I’d go as far to say he’s my canine superman.

Banwell guide dog playing with toy SWLWORK HARD, PLAY HARD: Banwell with a chew toy

As well as being great at his job he’s also a very sociable dog and the best wing man you could ask for, probably because he’s much better looking than most of my mates (sorry lads!)

Banwell has joined me on my sports journalist journey in the future this dynamic duo wish to pursue a career working in broadcast journalism.

Guide dogs are incredibly loyal and only a guide dog owner can appreciate the bond between them and their dog.

I would encourage anyone to sponsor Guide Dogs who are an incredible charity providing dogs to help visually-impaired people maintain their independence.

On May 10 I’ll be taking the plunge, sans Banwell, to raise money for them.

You can sponsor me here.

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