In a first, an Indian-origin man, who suffers a degenerative eye condition, is set to become the first person in the United Kingdom to get a guide horse to assist him with his day-to-day tasks.
Mohammed Salim Patel, a 24-year-old journalist based at Blackburn in Lancashire, suffers from a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, due to which he is left with a very small amount of sight in his right eye and will eventually become totally blind, according to news agency PTI. Patel had a deep-rooted fear of dogs and that is how the concept of a miniature guide horse caught his fancy.
"Digby (guide horse) is still a baby and will be two years old in May 2019. His training will take around two more years, so I expect to be able to bring him home to Blackburn once he's finished his training," Patel told PTI.
"There is no rush though, as there would be for a guide dog. Digby will be able to work into his 40s, whereas a guide dog has to retire at the age of eight," he said.
A guide horse has many benefits such as a much longer working life, 350-degree vision and ability to see in the dark. "Guide horses can work for a lot longer, therefore even if his training takes longer than two years, it doesn't matter too much as once he's trained, I will have decades with him as my assistant animal," Patel explained.
Digby is among the finalists in the Hero Pet category at the Amplifon Awards for Brave Britons aimed at honouring animals who have transformed the life of their owners. "It's very nice to have Digby recognised for his great work, despite still being in training. He is a star," said Patel, in reference to the awards, which will be announced on Tuesday.
The BBC journalist began working with his local station, BBC Radio Lancashire, before moving on to BBC North West Tonight TV after completing a Journalism Trainee Scheme. "I fancied being a TV presenter and decided to give media studies a go. I found myself making documentaries on taboo subjects, and essentially creating journalistic pieces. This is when I strongly considered pursuing a career in journalism, as a journalist rather than a TV presenter," he said.
(With PTI inputs)