Warwick family aim to carry on the legacy of a "legendary" guide dog dad - The Leamington Observer

Warwick family aim to carry on the legacy of a "legendary" guide dog dad

Leamington Editorial 3rd Nov, 2023   0

A FAMILY of volunteers from Warwick are hoping to carry on the legacy of a guide dog dad who earned “legendary” status by fathering 17 guide dog puppies.

Gaby Scanlan grew up surrounded by guide dogs that her mum Mandy Cunningham was training.

Mandy had worked for the charity for over 30 years, however she realised the heart break her children felt each time a dog would leave. Wanting a more permanent pet, they fostered German Shepherd, Zip.

As a guide dog stud, Zip would annually sire litters of puppies. Three years after retiring, aged 12, he had to be put down due to poor health – leaving Mandy and Gaby devastated.

Zip’s contribution to the Guide Dog’s community earned him legendary status, so unusually, some of his sperm was preserved.

It’s fairly rare for Guide Dogs to use Artificial Insemination as they prefer to go for the more natural approach. It’s only used in some cases if a dad has a particularly strong DNA. This frozen sperm was later used to sire a litter of puppies through Artificial Insemination. One of them, called Baxter, went on to become a guide dog stud himself.

When the charity put out an appeal for fosterers to look after Baxter, Mandy’s daughter Gaby was the one chosen through the rigorous selection process.

It was an emotional moment for Gaby to be reunited with Zip’s son as she, like her mum, was devastated at Zip’s loss.

Gaby said: “When he got put down it was like losing a family member. Normally they would put dogs down at the vets, but Zip got put down on the grass by the river at the Guide Dogs centre. That was his favourite spot, and my mum was there with him. My mum and I were devastated.”

She continued: “Guide Dogs want friendly dogs, ones that aren’t reactive and as a result their offspring is easy to train. Zip was lovely. He loved cuddles, had a great temperament and a lot of respect for other dogs.

“Zip was a great dog, and that gets filtered down as Baxter is a direct descendent from him.

“Baxter is due to start breeding from now. He’s the right age, they’re just waiting for the right brood bitch. It’s exciting and I’m really hoping that any pups that might come my mum might be able to train.”

And Mandy hopes that if Baxter has any suitable male puppies for breeding, her son Zak will apply for one so they can carry on the family dynasty – fostering a lineage of Guide Dogs dedicated to changing lives.

Gaby added: “I would like to have children at some point, and while that will be a few generations away, I would love for them to have the next generation of Guide Dogs.“I feel honoured to be able to contribute to Guide Dogs work and it makes me happy to know they are going on to change a life.”


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