The Covid pandemic has transformed the way we work, socialise, and live our everyday lives.
And among those forced to adapt quickly was UK charity Guide Dogs, which had to come up with a new way of training its puppies during a national lockdown.
The charity found busy streets and parks where they normally walk trainee guide dogs were suddenly silent.
And members were left with just 48 hours to find permanent homes for the dogs already undergoing instruction.
Operations manager at the Forfar branch Gillian Flynn said everything the organisation normally did was turned on its head.
But she added: “It’s amazing what people can do when they work together.”
This week, Guide Dogs were at Faskally Woods in Perthshire to allow sponsors of 20-month-old Golden Retriever Cosmos to meet her on completion of her training.
Cosmos is sponsored by the Enchanted Forest held at Faskally every year.
We were also there to meet the pups and to ask: “How do you train a guide dog during lockdown?”
‘We have not been able to go into busy areas’
As part of efforts to keep staff and volunteers safe, Guide Dogs predominantly trained puppies in gardens instead of public spaces.
Gillian said Cosmos did her guide dog training with one of her team of puppy raisers.
And she praised the staff and volunteers for stepping up to support the dogs in the early days of the pandemic.
I feel extremely proud of how staff and volunteers have come together.”
Gillian said: “With the pandemic, we have had to change the way we work.
“We have had to look at different ways of changing things.
“We have been introducing the pups to things they are not used to like an umbrella or different surfaces in the garden as part of their training.
“We have not been able to go into busy areas like shops or public transport to keep our staff and volunteers safe.
“When Covid first hit, within 48 hours we had to find permanent homes for the dogs, and volunteers and staff members took them in.
“They were finding quieter areas to walk the dogs. Our main priority was keeping staff and volunteers safe.”
She added: “I have to thank our puppy raisers for stepping up to the challenge.
“I look back on this and I feel extremely proud of how staff and volunteers have come together.
“It is amazing what people can do when they work together.”
Guide Dogs meet and greet, Pitlochry
On Wednesday afternoon, Guide Dogs held a meet and greet event for Cosmos and her sponsors.
The Enchanted Forest sponsored the female Golden Retriever early last year and named her Cosmos after the 2019 event – the last before the pandemic hit.
The meet and greet event was the first time Cosmos met any of her sponsors in person due to Covid restrictions.
Chair of the Enchanted Forest Community Trust Lesley Williamson said it is a “privilege” to be associated with Guide Dogs.
She said: “The trust would like to thank Guide Dogs. Cosmos has done great in her training and she will now go on to support someone.”
In 2020, the Trust donated thousands of pounds to 29 community projects across Perthshire.