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When Clare was in her mid-20s, she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that causes her to experience tunnel vision, night blindness and light sensitivity. For the first 20 years, Clare’s eyesight was manageable and stable, however, it eventually began to deteriorate, causing Clare to seek further support.

Following her diagnosis, Clare was able to continue working until she was 32 years old, with her eyesight remaining stable until the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 2019, Clare got in touch with Seeing Eye Dogs and was surprised to learn she did not have to be totally blind to be eligible for a Seeing Eye Dog. “I thought I’d look at getting a dog when I'm totally blind, I didn’t realise you could get them before that happened. I wish I'd known that. I would have put up my hand a lot earlier,” Clare says. 

A few years later after this realisation, Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs matched Clare with Mabel. Clare has had Mabel for 10 months now and describes her as strong willed, playful and beautiful. “I think they made a good match; I think we’re both strong willed,” Clare says.

Clare reflects on the “massive impact” Mabel has had on her life so far, “When I was waiting to get Mabel, I decided that, if I did finally get a dog, that I would just say yes to everything,” Clare explains. Thanks to Mabel, Clare has done exactly that. She not only feels confident taking on everyday tasks and new opportunities, but also enjoys travelling with her. “I flew to Sydney by myself a few weeks ago, and I get on the train to Melbourne by myself, and I probably wouldn’t do that if I was still on the cane, I'd go with somebody ... she just really gives me confidence,” Clare explains.

For many clients, putting their trust in a dog is a hard step to take, it can be hard to relinquish control and become dependent. With tears in her eyes, Clare described the trust and companionship she feels with Mabel after travelling together and finds it hard to put it into words the magnitude of their connection. 

Clare wants to express her gratitude to both Seeing Eye Dogs supporters and Petbarn, “I can’t give enough gratitude for everything Seeing Eye Dogs have done for me. I can’t believe how many people it takes to pump one dog out, like there’s so many people involved in the whole situation, that I'm in awe of it. I didn’t realise that until my graduation and I heard about everything Petbarn do for Vision Australia and the puppies, so I'm just grateful to everyone involved,” she says.

A lady in black clothes in standing, holding onto the lead of her Seeing Eye Dogg.
Clare and Mabel