A CEREDIGION guide dog owner is urging the public to show more consideration to people with sight loss as they attempt to socially distance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Louise Jenkins, from Henllan, says she has been shouted at and made to feel like a leper because she and guide dog Trinity cannot gauge whether people are two metres away in shops and queues.

She is backing Guide Dogs Cymru’s campaign to encourage the public to “Be There” for people with sight loss.

Louise said: “I normally find that everyone loves a guide dog and wants to stroke it, and the owner has to gently point out that the dog is working. Now it’s like we’ve become lepers overnight.

“The first incident was at a pedestrian crossing in Lampeter, where I work. Trinity took me to the button box, as she is trained to do, and I heard a woman shout out “Two metres”. I couldn’t work out where she was, and it really unsettled me.

“The second time was at the supermarket, as people now have to queue where I would normally go in. I couldn’t see them, and Trinity walked me past everyone to the door as she has been trained to do. I was told quite rudely, “There’s a queue”.

“Walking down the street, there are people queuing on the pavement outside shops, so we have to walk into the road to get past.

“We were told off outside the chemist for not being far enough away. No one seems to want to help, but they can see us – I can’t see them, and the dog isn’t trained to socially distance.

“It makes you feel embarrassed to go out and knocks your confidence. I had not realised how little I was going out, but people are so rude it is stopping me from doing things. Luckily our village shop is brilliant.”

Louise, who manages the Camfan mental health drop-in centre in Lampeter, has been working throughout the coronavirus pandemic. “We have been so busy, and mental health services are need more than ever.

“We closed the drop-in at the beginning of the pandemic but had a couple of hospital admissions, so the health board let us open as a one-to-one support service. It’s been hard but having Trinity around makes such a difference to the people we help.”

Andrea Gordon, engagement manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said: “Please let someone with sight loss know you are nearby and give them the opportunity to ask for help if they need it.

“Their request could be as simple as finding out where the queue starts, or if there is a safer place to cross the road.”

You can read more about Guide Dogs’ “Be There” campaign at https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/news/Social-distancing-and-sight-loss