Page last updated at 10:40 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 11:40 UK

Boy 'youngest' to get guide dog

Brad Ranson and Lance
Brad says being blind gets easier as you get older

A teenager from County Durham has become one of the youngest people in the UK to own a guide dog.

Brad Ranson, 14, of Belmont, who lost his sight when he was seven, now relies on labrador Lance who was trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Usually, blind people have to be 16 to get a guide dog because of the responsibility involved but Brad is taking part in a pilot training scheme.

Brad said people forget Lance is a working dog and feed him polo mints.

He said: "People are always coming up to us and saying 'good boy, pretty dog' or they feed Lance polo mints and treat him like a pet, forgetting he is a working dog.

"He has made a huge difference to my life and I really love him.

"Things get easier as you get older. The only thing I can't do is drive a car - and the amount that would cost I'm glad I can't."

Trainer Paul Corner said: "Brad is taking part in a pilot project to see how feasible it would be to expand our service to younger people.

"To train a guide dog and keep it throughout its life costs 35,000 so it is expensive.

"We are a charity and do not get any government funding. We have a huge army of volunteers who, without which, we could not do our job."


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