Man’s best friend helps to raise €2m for guide dogs charity

Frank Downes with Gallagher. PHOTO: ANDREW DOWNES.

Galway City Tribune – In his two decades of heading up the charity in Galway, Frank Downes estimates he has raised a mind-boggling €2 million for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

And in fact, his overall contribution is even more than that, as he started fundraising for the charity 40 years ago this month in his native Laois.

“I haven’t done it by myself – I have a four-legged friend who helps me. In fact, without Gallagher nobody would even see me,” he laughs.

Gallagher is the huge Golden Retriever Frank adopted after the animal failed his ‘Leaving Cert’ – the test that pups must pass before they go on to become guide dogs for the visually impaired or assistant dogs for people with Autism.

“He wouldn’t respond to a whistle when let off the lead – this fella had other ideas. He was six-and-a-half before I let him off the lead as I was afraid he’d bolt and get lost. The first time I did it, we were in Salthill and he didn’t go more than three feet from my side. And that’s the way he’s been ever since.”

Gallagher is now an “ambassador” for the charity, used to help in the constant drive to raise money. It costs €55,000 to get a single dog ready for their new working life. The charity has a training centre in Cork where pups undergo a rigorous training programme before they are matched with an owner.

At any one time there are 40 guide dogs and 30 assistant dogs undergoing training at the centre where there are 70 people employed.
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Guide Dog Day takes place today (Friday) where Irish Guide Dogs volunteers will be collecting at venues across the city and county. Donations can also be made by texting WOOF to 50300 to donate €4.