A blind couple who first met and fell in love through their guide dogs are set to record a marvellous milestone.
The couple have been provided with 14 guide dogs over the years.
The two met while they were on a residential course training with Gail’s first dog and Bill’s second dog in 1971.
Bill was training with a dog called Dart and Gail’s dog was called Marie.
The couple stayed in touch, began dating and became man and wife just two years later – and now have 43 years of happy marriage under their belts.
The pair both agree that having a guide dog has changed their lives for the better.
Their guide dogs have enabled them to enjoy full careers.
Bill, 74, worked in admin and Gail, 65, as a telephonist and they have been by their side through marriage, the arrival of their daughter, granddaughters and now help them to keep fit in retirement and get them to various places as they are both busy doing charity work.
Bill said: “I would not have had a complete life without my guide dogs, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses but it is so worth it, I have no intention of slowing down and am looking forward to hitting 60 years of guide dog ownership in the future”.
Bill, who was born blind got his first guide dog Jolly when he was just 20 years old in 1962.
However, he knew from a very early age he wanted a guide dog after meeting blind lady Eva Clydesdale and becoming enthralled with her guide dog when he was just a school boy.
Bill even said to her: “When I am a man I’m going to get a guide dog”.
Bill said: “I was so frightened all the way through my training with Jolly. It was so hard and such a responsibility. We learnt together and I thank god that I persevered because I got so much back in return.”
Gail, who was also born blind, was previously nervous when she was around dogs.
It was only after joining a club for disabled people that she met a volunteer puppy walker and two guide dog owners who encouraged her to go along to a Guide Dogs open day.
Gail then plucked up enough courage to apply for a guide dog and the rest is history.
Gail said: “I remember the very first time I walked with my guide dog, the feeling of freedom was amazing.”
Emma Allen-Taylor, engagement officer for Guide Dogs said: “Bill and Gail are great ambassadors for guide dogs.
“Our charity is passionate about people with sight loss enjoying the same freedom of movement as everybody else and Bill and Gail’s story is a perfect example of this.”
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is a UK-wide charitable organisation founded in 1934. It provides independence and freedom to thousands of blind and partially-sighted people across the UK.