By Elesha George
A large dog with off-white fur quietly strolled into the Observer studio on a Thursday afternoon, undetected by those unaware of his presence. He quietly laid on the floor between his owners David and Judith Adams.
David, a citizen of the United Kingdom, has been visually impaired since the age of 50 – a genetic condition which affected his mother before him and others in his family. But he moves around with the help of a service dog who answers to the name Jimbo.
Jimbo has a remarkable talent for recalling his surroundings and navigating David through new streets corners and even those pesky potholes that one encounters around Antigua and Barbuda. He records every turn and twist as he leads David, who holds on to the fluorescent strip tucked around his white harness.
But Jimbo didn’t learn to do that overnight. He has had years of special training to work with persons with disabilities and now travels with his owners using his own passport.
“He’s only a dog. At the end of the day he is only a dog but he is highly trained and bred to a high degree of professionalism so he does a good job even in strange places,” David remarked.
When Jimbo arrived in Antigua three weeks ago, his owners had no idea that he would be the first dog ever to be invited into the investiture room at Government House on International Day of People with Disabilities.
Governor General, His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams would greet Jimbo that Friday afternoon when he and his owners sat with other disabled people to share their story and to demonstrate the use of a guide dog.
During this time, Jimbo again laid quietly beside David and Judith as they spoke of their many accomplishments in improving the lives of disabled people in the United Kingdom and Europe.
David has been the President of the European Guide Dog Federation for the past nine years and is also a trustee of Warwickshire Association for the Blind, which provides services to the 20,000 blind and partial sighted in the county.
He has had an international business career with companies such as Ford, Chrysler, Xerox and was European Finance Director for Hasbro. But as he started to lose his sight, David set up his own business and have done charitable work in tandem.
He told the audience of his time as chairman of the Royal National College for the Blind where he served for 10 years.
David is also active in the European Disability Forum, representing 100 million disabled persons, the European Blind Union, representing 30 million persons with sight loss, and is leading in the development of a European standard for Assistance Dogs.
His wife Judith served for seven years as the Executive Director of the European Guide Dog Federation (EGDF) and has an equally impressive career.
After hearing their stories, the audience was curious to see Jimbo in action. So, after guiding David into the Investiture room only once before, Jimbo was able to demonstrate how he would guide David out of the room, down the steps and return inside once more.
Given his new surroundings and several peering eyes and whispers, Jimbo did a job worthy of his doggy treats.
An impressed Governor General, thanked the couple and their service dog for the appearance and the expertise that they would have shared prior with various government officials.
In light of this year’s theme for International Day of People with Disabilities – Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable post-Covid-19 world – Sir Rodney remarked that “we as the persons who are able must seek to do things that will help persons who are physically challenged to make themselves useful; to let them feel a part of society and what we do”.