Paralympian Libby Clegg And Her Guide Dog Hatti
Libby Clegg is one of Great Britain and Scotland’s most successful track and field athletes of recent years. With two Paralympic Games Silvers, World Championship Gold and European Championship Gold, she is one of the UK’s brightest young stars. Libby is originally from the Scottish Borders and moved to Cheshire at 19 to pursue her running career.
Libby suffers from a deteriorating eye condition known as Stargardt’s Macular Dystrophy disease, which means she only has slight peripheral vision in her left eye, and is registered as blind. Last year, Libby became the proud owner of Hatti, her guide dog. She went through a number of stages at the beginning of 2014 and successfully completed all her training to have Hatti full time in May. We were delighted to speak to Libby about the special role Hatti plays in her life.
WHAT BREED IS HATTI & WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HER? Hatti is a lab retriever cross. I wasn’t aware but with guide dogs you can actually choose your breed. Initially I did really want one of the German Shepard puppies because they look so cute but I was really happy when I met Hatti because she was so friendly and I instantly knew she was the perfect match.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU HAD HATTI? I have had Hatti for nearly two years, yet it feels a lot longer than that because I can’t really remember what it was like not having her with me. We had such a great connection when I first met her that it feels like she has been with me forever.
DOES HATTI COME TO WORK WITH YOU? Hatti comes pretty much everywhere with me. I know that when I take her places I don’t have to worry about her not getting on with people because she gets on with absolutely everyone. Even people who aren’t keen on dogs! She probably spends most of her time with me at the track watching me train. At the beginning she was kept on a lead but now I let her off and she sits so patiently waiting for me. We do let her have a little run around and play after training and it is fun to see her enjoy herself and play with us.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES HATTI MAKE TO YOUR LIFE? She makes a huge difference. Not only with her general guide dog duties of helping me get around, and giving me more confidence and independence but we also have a great companionship.
DO YOU TAKE HATTI ON HOLIDAY WITH YOU? I haven’t taken her abroad yet but I’m planning on doing that when I have more free time. When I go away for training or take some time off, Hatti will go to my parents’ house in Scotland and has her own little holiday. Both of my parents have dogs as well, so when Hatti gets there she is able to play with the other dogs and have a break from her day-to-day guide dog duties. I love that she is able to enjoy herself and be the dog she is. When she is away she doesn’t work at all as I want her to be able to relax just like me.
DO YOU TAKE HER TO PUBS / RESTAURANTS? I haven’t taken her to a pub yet but we do go out for lunches. She is really well behaved in restaurants and usually just sits under the table and sleeps or tries to catch any left overs if she can! Most people are a bit shocked to see a dog in the restaurant because you just don’t expect it but they all understand. There is a place I go to a lot in Edinburgh with my brother because it is a dog friendly pub and I love the food too! It’s great being able to walk into a restaurant where I know Hatti will feel welcome.
WHAT ARE HATTI’S FAVOURITE THINGS? Hatti’s favourite thing in the world is food! Labradors are obsessed with eating food and Hatti lives up to her breed. She also loves walks in the forest, especially back home in Scotland as she gets to play like a normal dog. Oh yeah and also trying to get onto my bed! That’s a favourite thing of hers too but food is her number one love.
DOES HATTI HAVE ANY SPECIAL TRICKS? I have sort of taught her how to high five but that is the only trick I have managed to teach her. Obviously she has her guide dog qualities but she can just about do a high five, it is very selective and usually only happens if food is involved!
She does like to go play fetch and is great at catching a ball and bringing it back to you. Encouraging her to let it go is a whole other story though. She likes to trick you and pretend she is going to let you pick it up before she grabs it and runs back away with it. She is a bit of a tease!
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ANIMAL WELFARE? I would say you need to understand that a pet is for life. They need to have regular checks at the vet, make sure they have a pet plan in place and they are fed the best product that supports their overall nutrition. I feed Hatti with Eukanuba because it provides her the right amount of nutrition to allow her to be the working dog that she is.
This feature was first published in Pets Magazine February available to read at: www.petsmag.co.uk.