SHE’S been tickled by American Presidents, made friends with the Queen and sat through more Commons debates than she probably cares to remember but now Sadie, David Blunkett’s beloved guide dog, has retired.
We spoke to the former Home Secretary as he bade an emotional farewell to the devoted Labrador-cross who has served him so loyally for nine years, and welcomed his new dog Cosby.
“Sadie was my fifth guide dog and it’s always difficult and tearful when you have to part company with your guide dog,” said 64-year-old Sheffield Labour MP David Blunkett, who lives on the Chatsworth estate.
“We’ve been everywhere and experienced all sorts of interesting things with Sadie, meeting former US President George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Queen.
“Our happiest memories are walking in the Derbyshire countryside where she learned not to chase sheep but she’s never been able to resist squirrels.”
Sadie, who is 11 years old in December, has served alongside three Labour leaders and there have been some memorable moments during her political career.
Mr Blunkett recalled the occasion when she was introduced to Vladimir Putin and protectively barked at the Russian leader’s honour guard when they ceremonially drew their swords.
“She has been invaluable in helping me carry out my duties as an MP and Cabinet Member and I will miss her but she deserves a long a happy retirement,” he said.
Sadie has now been found a new home in the Peak District where she can enjoy a well earned retirement with new owner Jane Slaney thanks to the work of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. The charity not only trains and matches dogs to the visually impaired but finds them suitable homes to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Despite an emotional parting on Sunday, Mr Blunkett, is looking forward to getting to know his new guide dog Cosby and is delighted Sadie will be staying in the county.
Sadie’s new owner Jane Slaney, who lives in a Peak District village, said: “My own Labrador, Bess, died three or four years ago and a friend who is an acquaintance of David’s suggested I should take on a retiring guide dog.
“The charity is always looking for people to give a home to its retiring guide dogs and Sadie is perfect because she has such a wonderful temperament.”
Sadie stayed with retired widow Mrs Slaney to become acquainted before she officially moved into her new home on Sunday.
Mrs Slaney added: “Sadie’s wonderful, with a gentle character and will enjoy spending time with my family and grandchildren.
“She’s very intuitive and whatever I say to her she seems to understand. David will also be welcome to visit once Sadie’s settled in.”
Mr Blunkett will be teaching his sixth guide dog a few old tricks as he starts three weeks of training.
New guide dog Cosby joined the Sheffield MP last month. The 19-month-old black Labrador-cross curly coat Retriever has already undergone basic training to cope with travel, aircrafts and the Houses of Parliament.
But the pair will train together with a mobility instructor for about three weeks around the House of Commons, his constituency office and along David’s favourite rural walks.
Mr Blunkett said: “On top of basic, fundamental training Cosby has to be able to cope with an enormous amount of travel including rail and aircraft.
“I’m delighted he is ready to start a new life at my side and we’re getting to know each other but I can’t help wondering what messages my former guide dog Sadie might have passed on to him.”
The Labour MP revealed his only slight fear is whether he will be able to keep up with young Cosby but he is determined to get a bit fitter and lose a bit of weight to ensure Cosby gets the right off-duty exercise.
Mr Blunkett’s guide dogs since 1969 have included Ruby, Teddy, Offa and Lucy and they are all remembered fondly including Teddy who sparked a soft-hearted condolence note from former prime minister and Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher following the dog’s death.
He added: “The Guide Dogs charity helps to create independence and provides mobility with dignity and a wonderful, equality of opportunity.”
Those interested in supporting the Guide Dogs charity or finding out more about adopting a retiring guide dog can visit www.guidedogs.org.uk or can call 0118 983 5555.
Richard Leaman, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association charity, said: “Sadie has done an incredible job and I’m confident David’s next partnership with Cosby will prove equally successful.”