Golden retriever in an assistant dog in training vest sitting on the floor

Willow in Waitrose

Assistance Dog in Training - read the next instalment as Willow visits the local supermarket for the first time.
The biggest day in Willow’s calendar so far and that was her first trip to our local supermarket…Waitrose! 
First of course, we needed to get her kitted out in her ‘Assistance Dog in Training’ vest which we had made by Sunny Makes who are custom manufacturers of a wide range of products for Assistance Dogs. All vests are made from scratch and custom made to your own designs, logos, lettering the lot!
We decided on a high vis yellow and royal blue mix, she actually looks like she should be on the ‘force’ as she blends in so well with patrol car colours but I have to say she really looks the part.
So off we went on our trip to the Supermarket, slightly apprehensive (me) and full of professionalism (Willow.) I was more worried that they would refuse entry, as since Willow has started her training, I’ve started following quite a few other assistance dogs in training on social media and have been really surprised at how many shops have stopped and refused access. A quick brush up on the legal ins and outs of Assistance Dogs and Assistance Dogs in training and I was ready for a confrontation… 
I wheeled in Ted with Willow in tow, frankly you can’t miss the high vis outfit it’s so bright and I waited just inside the electric doors. Firstly, to get Willow used to the noises and smells of the shop and secondly, in case I was escorted out of there. I couldn’t have been more wrong, a lovely lady that worked there asked if I needed any help going around the shops and with that, we were off. Even a trolley wheel going over Willow’s tail when we were said in the Meat and Cheese section wasn’t enough to put her off her stride. I was amazed how naturally it all came to her.
She didn’t flinch, she was impeccable, even at the fresh seafood counter (I knew this was going to be her biggest test) she gave it a nose in the air, glancing sniff and carried on. I just kept praising her and asking her to leave it, if she slowed to sniff too much and she carried on. It was a really pleasurable experience; all the other shoppers were very considerate and gave way for us and Willow was incredible.
We still have a long way to go, being able to leave her to sit in one aisle whilst I go and fetch something from another and lots of other scenarios, but it is a very positive step in the right direction.
Next on the list is Ted’s school, though I’ve a feeling she’s going to get very spoilt on that visit!
By Abigail Hutton-Tufano