WATCH: Dogs Unite walk comes to Sunderland park

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Dozens of dog owners and their four-legged friends stepped out to raise money for a very worthy cause today.

Barnes Park in Sunderland was the venue for a sponsored walk in aid of Dogs Unite, a joint effort between Guide Dogs for the Blind, Australian charity Guide Dogs Victoria and Blind Foundation New Zealand.

Dogs Unite walkers receive certificates for taking part

Dogs Unite walkers receive certificates for taking part

Around 70 people took part, raising almost £400 on the day, with more still to come in.

Carol Essl, of the Friends of Barnes Park, said organising regular events had been a condition of the Lottery cash which funded its recent facelift.

"We do a dogshow, we do stuff for Halloween - we're always looking at new events to put on in the park," she said.

"We had thought about doing something to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind because it is such a worthy cause."

Carol Essl

Carol Essl

When the group contacted the charity, they were amazed to discover their planned date was already scheduled for the international fundraiser.

"When we were told there was going to be a global event, we thought we wanted to be a part of it, but it is pure coincidence that we chose this date."

Several of those taking part have already benefited from the support of Guide Dogs for the Blind, or hope to do so.

Derek Ridley, 68, is a regular visitor to the park with his guide dog Jen.

Three times the trouble...

Three times the trouble...

"I still have a bit of sight, enough to get around the park, but she is a big help," he said.

"I come down here and let her off the leash so she can play with the other dogs - we're quite well known to the people down here.

"I’ve had her about 15 months now and she goes everywhere with me. If I go out for a drink or pop to the shops, she is with me constantly."

Gwyneth and Andrew Boyes had travelled from their home in Murton, with a view to raising money and helping Basset Hound Beau get used to the company of other dogs.

Beagles hit the road

Beagles hit the road

Gwyneth, 51, has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, and is waiting to be assessed for a guide dog of her own.

"If I get a guide dog, we want to be able to keep Beau as well, so we need to get him socialised," said Gwyneth.

"A guide dog will give me my independence back. I won't need to have my husband or daughter to guide me when I go out."

Twenty-four-year-old Rosie Pybus and guide dog Kane had travelled from Darlington to support the walk: "He gave me my life back," she said.

"I was not really confident before I had him, but he has really helped me to find my confidence."

Best foot forward

Best foot forward

Up close and personal...

Up close and personal...