Born: December 2015
Type: Labrador Retriever
Colour: black

According to Inese Plūme…

I am an active and curious Rigan, and would gladly be in several places at the same time, but my possibilities in this regard are restricted by my almost complete loss of sight and hearing.
I had heard about guide dogs and about the great work that they do on a daily basis, helping their masters to get about on the street and on public transport, and in serving as their eyes, friends and helpers. So I started looking for any opportunity I could find to meet people who train guide dogs.


Inese’s first encounter with puppy Anneken in April 2016

The first meeting took place in Vērmaņdārzs in Central Riga. The representatives of the Service Dog association TEODORS gave some demonstrations and told those present about the daily lives of these wonderful dogs and the long process of training them. I was surprised to learn that the training of a puppy begins when it is just a few months old. A puppy that passes its initial training is sent to live with a foster family until it is one year old, when the serious training process can begin. Special attention is devoted to the puppy and it is taught the first skills it requires. This process is overseen by a dog trainer, who occasionally tests what the dog has learned and makes any corrections that need to be made as part of the training process.

Watching the guide dog demonstrations at Vērmaņdārzs, and listening to stories about them, I was sure that such a dog would be of great help to me in my daily life. I was also lucky enough to chat to Aleksejs Volkovs and observe how well he got on with his dog Teodors. I was introduced to a wonderful puppy Annekene and her foster family. I spent the whole day with Anneken. She was wonderful!


Anneken and Inese have passed the guide dog examination in May 2018. Photo: Liene Šternberga

I wrote an application explaining that I would like a guide dog and so the long period of waiting began. One day, I received a call from dog trainer Zaiga Kļaviņa who asked me if I hadn’t reconsidered and whether I still wanted a guide dog. In a state of nervous anxiety, I made my way to the Strazdumuižas Club. Zaiga spent a long time telling me about the daily life of a guide dog, about its needs, and about the responsibility that I would have to undertake, before askings me once more whether I really wished to do this. In a state of excitement, I told Zaiga that, of course, I want to do this. Zaiga and I then proceeded to cover our first route together. And so our friendship began together with our work with Anneken. Almost incredibly, the very first puppy I met would go on to become my helper! Every day, her trainer Juha would work with us both in Central Riga. I won’t deny that this was not easy. We both had to learn, to understand and come to terms with one another. We spent several weeks working hard and intensively, during which time I started to empathise with and understand the dog. I had to acquire a lot of skills so that life for the dog in my care would be comfortable and pleasant, and so that we could work safely together. The main thing was to learn to trust my guide dog. From time to time, I had my doubts about whether the dog would really take me to the curb and stop there, instead of going somewhere else. From the moment that I learned to trust her, I realised that it was also much easier for Anneken to give me the information I required. Now, it is very rare that I find myself thinking about what and in what sequence I need to do and say. We do lots of things automatically. For example, when I get dressed and put on my street clothes and pick up her bridle, Anneken sits down at my side and is ready to start work. She becomes serious and I can sense her feeling of responsibility for me as a person.

By nature, Anneken is very friendly, curious, and patient and has all the characteristics needed to become a wonderful guide dog. Now that the long training process is behind us, it is hard to imagine how I could have survived without Anneken. I now have a completely different Riga at my feet, offering me much greater opportunities. Together, we are audacious and able, something for which I am very grateful to the Service Dog association TEODORS.

Every morning, when the alarm clock sounds, it is so wonderful to hear Anneken hurry to the side of my bed and bring me my slippers. I have acquired a wonderful friend and helper and have regained my joy in life!

Inese Plūme, Ligita Damberga
Riga, October 2018


Annekene in October 2018