Landlady Lesley: Why our lodger is a little Labrador...

Lesley and Nick Gilbert with their current guide gog puppy Sidney
Lesley and Nick Gilbert with their current guide gog puppy Sidney

Offering a short-term home to students is nothing new – but usually it’s a way to make a little extra cash, and the young lodgers have only two legs.

But the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association is appealing for volunteers in the West Herts area to board trainee guide dogs during evenings and weekends.

Volunteer boarders house trainee guide dogs in their homes for 10 weeks at a time.

They feed and groom the dogs on a daily basis, and they are closely supervised by the dogs’ trainers. The charity supplies basic equipment and covers all veterinary and feeding expenses.

Advice is also given regarding handling skills, basic first aid, and the general care and welfare of the dogs.

Volunteers attend two training days and their home and the security of their garden has to be checked, with a ‘spending run’ for the dog’s toilet requirements being installed in the garden.

Boarders are required to drop their dogs off at the charity’s office in Park Street between 8am and 9am and pick them up between 5pm and 6pm.

The dogs do not need to be walked in the weekday evenings, as they have a very active day with their instructors.

Lesley Gilbert has been a volunteer boarder for more than four years and has boarded five different dogs.

Lesley and her husband Nick were surprised when they found out that they were really just providing bed and board for their first dog, Wanda.

“It was the biggest surprise when we realised that we could not walk the dog during the week or take her out and about with us,” she said.

“But we had to stick to the deal to prepare Wanda for her future. We used to write every little thing in the diary we’d been given, just in case it mattered.

“For the 10 weeks that you are looking after a dog, you can’t just pop out for the day or go out with your friends.

“The dog can be left for up to three hours, but for those 10 weeks you can’t go out for the evening during the week or a full day at a weekend.

“Instead of going out, friends come over to our house more. They don’t mind at all – they love meeting the dogs.”

Having never had a dog before, Lesley and Nick now can’t imagine their lives without the trainee dogs they continue to help.

“We both love dogs, and by boarding we can have the benefit of having a dog around in the evenings and weekends without worrying about what to do with the dog in the daytime,” said Lesley.

“People often say that we are very good to volunteer, but we don’t see it like that.

“We get a lot back from it, and it’s a bonus that we are helping out Guide Dogs in the process. We have lovely memories of all of the dogs we have boarded.”

If you’d like to find out more, call 0845 371 7771 or email