A South Yorkshire couple is preparing to celebrate their first Valentine’s Day together - after being introduced by a guide dog.
England blind cricketer Peter Blueitt first met girlfriend Claire Doidge in November 2013, after he called to thank her for training his first ever guide dog, Kyso.
Peter invited Claire, of Crosspool, to visit his Rotherham home so she could see for herself how well Kyso was settling in, and Claire revealed there was an ‘instant rapport’ between them.
“We hit it off straight away and started seeing a lot of each other,” said Claire, aged 50, who is a volunteer puppy walker for national charity Guide Dogs and looked after Kyso for the first year of his life, as he learned to be a guide dog.
“We’d go to the theatre together or to watch football or fundraising events for guide dogs, then ten months ago, we realised we both wanted to take the relationship further.”
55-year-old Peter started to lose his sight in 2008 after a bleed into a pituitary tumour. Although Peter used a white cane he noticed the difference that a guide dog made to his teammates on the Yorkshire Visually Impaired Cricket Club and the England Blind Cricket Team. He began making enquiries and was quickly matched with Kyso, who had undertook his advanced training with a Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor.
“Losing your sight is never easy but Kyso makes life so much easier, helping me to have more freedom and independence,” said Peter.
“I don’t have to rely on anyone anymore to go out and do the things that I want to do. He makes a massive difference to my lifestyle. I’m able to be actively involved in family life and help to support my children by taking my granddaughter on the school run. If I didn’t have Kyso I wouldn’t feel confident enough to do this.
“It’s hard not being able to see your loved ones and I really miss going out on my motorcycle, but losing my sight hasn’t been the end of the world, just the start of a different one.”
Peter has recently returned from playing the visually impaired Ashes tournament in Australia. During the tournament in Adelaide he competed in five one day internationals and three T20s games. Peter is the only cricketer from Yorkshire who is currently playing in the England Blind Cricket Team.
He added: “Meeting Claire has been the icing on the cake for me and I’m able to share so much with her. I’m pleased she can visit places like Australia with me and I’m excited to celebrate our first Valentine’s Day together.”
Claire, who has now puppy walked 10 guide dog puppies, is due to start the process again in March with a new puppy. Charity Guide Dogs is actively looking for more volunteer puppy walkers in South Yorkshire to support a guide dog puppy on the first part of their journey.
Visit www.guidedogs.org.uk if you would like to know more about becoming a volunteer.