A BLIND Greenock woman has told how guide dogs have changed her life over the last 42 years.

Betty Stirling sadly lost much of her sight after contracting measles at the age of three.

She lost her remaining vision in more recent years to glaucoma.

The 87-year-old, who was partnered with her first guide dog in 1976, has been reminiscing about her beloved four-legged companions to mark Guide Dogs Week which begins today (SAT).

Betty, who current canine companion is called Dusty, said: “The benefit has been unbelievable.

"Without a guide dog, I couldn’t walk along the pavement without tripping.

"Dusty highlights the many steps we must tackle to get out the house to the pavement, and sits at the kerb so I don’t trip.

"She’s so patient, and accommodates my pace.”

Not all Betty’s guide dogs have been quite so steady.

Back in 1994, the pensioner, who is married to her husband David, 97, was paired with Jess, a golden retriever cross Border collie.

David said: “We used to say Betty had her skates on when she went out with Jess!”

Betty soon plans to hang up her harness and allow Dusty a well-earned retirement.

She added: “I wasn’t even planning on having another guide dog, I was going to stop after my last dog Jenny.

"However one of the instructors brought Dusty in six years ago and that was it.”

Although she has had six guide dogs - Ruby, Nanday, Jess, Fran, Jenny and Dusty - Betty says she doesn’t have a favourite and has loved them all equally.

She remembers some comical stories over the years, such as when her retired guide dog Jess crept out of the house to the hairdressers with Betty and her new guide dog.

Jess had been walking in front of the new guide dog, as if to show her the ropes, and Betty hadn’t realised until they all arrived at the salon.

Betty and David ran the Greenock fundraising group for Guide Dogs for many years.

They organised dances and meals to raise money for the charity, as well as raffles and stalls in the Town Hall.

In addition, they used to travel to Edinburgh to support other fundraising groups and were key organisers for the Scottish Association of Guide Dog Owners.

They would plan four trips a year, such as weekends away to St Andrews.

Betty also used to give talks for Guide Dogs as a volunteer speaker, telling local children about her dogs.

Community fundraiser Tammy Robinson said: “Guide Dogs Scotland would like to thank Betty and David for their support throughout the years.

“Although Betty, like all guide dog owners, would only have had to pay a token 50 pence for each of her dogs, the full cost to our charity for a guide dog is over £55,000 from birth to retirement.

“Our Inverclyde group raise funds by organising and attending events such tea parties, pub quizzes and supermarket collections.

"We’re keen to hear from locals who would like to get involved.

"There are lots of ways for people to help, whether they want to spare an hour a month or a couple of hours a week.

“It’s a great way to have fun and meet new people, while making a big difference to people with sight loss.

"Local businesses can also help by hosting a Guide Dogs collection box.”

For more information, contact Tammy on 0118 983 8123 or email tammy.robinson@guidedogs.org.uk