‘I didn’t want to be here any more – having a guide dog saved my life’

Who doesn’t love puppies? They’re cute and cuddly but, for a select few, they are more than just adorable pets.

As new four-part series Guide Dog Puppy School shows, some special canines go on to help visually impaired people live their lives to the fullest. That’s the case for Nathan Edge, 29, who features in the programme. And it’s a busy time for him and wife, Emma, who welcomed their second son, Harry, at the beginning of August.

“It was a bit of a surprise for Oliver [their eldest son].” says Nathan. “But now he’s in big brother mode.”

Nathan became visually impaired at the age of six after being diagnosed with juvenile chronic arthritis. But, at 18, he completely lost his sight.

“I knew there was a slight risk of retinal detachment due to the pressure and bleeding in the back of my eye,” says Nathan. “But I knew exactly what had happened that Saturday morning when I woke up. My sight was gone completely.

“I actually stayed in my room for two days, and told my family I wasn’t feeling very well. I didn’t know how to tell them that my sight was gone, and we all knew it was gone forever.

“When it came to the Monday, I somehow found the words to tell them. I remember my dad crying. In a way, it was a bit like we were grieving.”

Since losing his sight, Nathan has relied on guide dogs to get out and about. He also reveals that his first guide dog, Hudson, did much more than that.

“I’ve always said that Hudson saved me,” confesses Nathan. “My vision had completely gone four months after Hudson and I qualified. And those early stages were really difficult, I did get to the point where I didn’t want to be here.

“I was sitting with my head in my hands crying and Hudson came up to me. He just got his nose and pushed my hands up out of my face as if to say, ‘I’m here.’ It was that moment where I had gone from sort of rock bottom to completely changing my mindset.”

The series shares other inspirational stories, from Hester, a 16-year-old Paralympic skiing hopeful who is visually impaired to Natalie who has cerebral palsy and lives independently thanks to rescue support dog Cleo. And, of course, there’s a visit to some adorable potential guide dog pups who are put through their paces by top trainer Michelle Lowden.

“I’m hoping we can break a few stereotypes,” says Nathan. “A lot of people think guide dogs are unhappy or overworked – it’s really not the case.”

Nathan’s guide dog, Hudson, passed away this year. So it’s his labrador Abby who takes centre stage in the show.

“A lot of people think guide dogs are sort of working all the time,” says Nathan. “It’s actually far from it. When they’re in the house, they basically become a pet.

“When that guide dog harness goes on, they switch into work mode. She’s in the zone when we’re going to pick up Oliver from nursery, which is what we did on the show. I want to demonstrate that, for me, having a guide dog enables me to be a dad.

“It’s something that a lot of people take for granted – to be able to go and pick your son from nursery. And, with Abby by my side, I can do that.”

Puppy School for Guide Dogs airs on Friday 1st September at 8pm on Channel 5.

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