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She used to be petrified of dogs... now, at 15, Corey is Northern Ireland's youngest guide dog owner

By Rebecca Black

Published 27/09/2016

Corey with her guide dog Ida at school
Corey with her guide dog Ida at school
Corey with her guide dog Ida

Meet the Lisburn teenager who has become the youngest person in Northern Ireland to be given a guide dog.

Corey Crozier (15) admitted that when she was younger she was afraid of dogs, but now her beloved guide dog Ida has transformed her life.

She lost 90% of her sight when she was just three years old, after having had chickenpox.

Corey's optic nerve atrophy has had a major impact on her life, and before receiving Ida, she relied on her mum Kathleen to walk her to school or the shops, and her friends helped her navigate the corridors in school.

Kathleen said since she got Ida, Corey is a changed girl - much happier, brighter and more bubbly - as Ida has given her independence as well as companionship.

Ida has also been a big hit at Forthill Integrated College with staff and pupils alike. However, they are warned not to pet Ida or give her treats because she is a working dog.

"Everyone was so excited, the teachers all love her too. It has been great to have so much support from everyone," Corey said.

The family applied to Guide Dogs NI for a dog in 2015 and were delighted when Corey was matched with Ida earlier this year.

Guide Dog mobility instructor Jacqueline Dowey worked with Corey for eight weeks throughout the summer to ensure she and Ida were ready for school, and paid tribute to how hard the teenager worked to reach the level she is now at.

Jacqueline explained that not many young people would have the maturity to take on the responsibility of looking after a guide dog.

"Just because of her age, we had to be sure before giving her a guide dog - there is a thorough process that takes place," she said.

Every detail, from Corey's height to her personality, was taken into consideration when matching her with a guide dog to ensure the pair would be compatible.

To prove she was responsible enough to take care of Ida, Corey also had to take over caring for the family's other dog - a cocker spaniel called Missy - for two weeks. The 15-year-old now looks after Ida herself from 7am in the morning, taking her outside to toilet, feeding her, putting her harness on, grooming her and settling her into bed at night.

"I tuck her in with a little blanket," she smiled.

"She loves her routine. I love that I can be able to go to school and come back by myself, and can go out with my friends at the weekend."

However, she admitted she did not always like dogs.

"When I was younger I was petrified of dogs. When we went to the park I used to go all the way around the lake to get away from a dog if I saw one," she said.

Kathleen got the family's cocker spaniel Missy to help Corey become more comfortable with dogs, and now Corey says: "I love her (Ida) to pieces."

Corey is currently studying for her GCSEs, and says she wants to go on to work with either children or animals when she is older.

More than 100 people across Northern Ireland currently have guide dogs, according to Guide Dogs NI.

Each person needs to receive training from expert instructors and be matched with a dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind breeding centre in England.

Jacqueline said that she trains between seven to nine people each year.

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