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“Accepting disability is a huge part of it, I knew that I had to accept my disability to then move on. If I hadn’t accepted my disability, it also would have been a different story with having Shaylah,” Thayana explains.  

At 18 years of age, Thayana lost total vision in her left eye following the detachment of her retina. One year later, at age 19, the retina in Thayana's right eye also detached. Following this, she underwent 6-7 surgeries in her right eye, leaving her with only 10% of her vision. At the time, Thayana was in college and was forced to drop out and focus entirely on seeking medical help.  

Having grown up in Zambia, Thayana moved to Perth to study social work. In 2018, Thayana travelled to South Africa, where her ophthalmologist was located, for her final surgery. Upon returning to Perth, Thayana knew she wanted to make a change in her life: “Coming back to Perth in March 2022 I knew that I didn’t want to come back the same person that I was when I was once here. I used to depend on friends to go everywhere and anywhere, I couldn’t go anywhere without a friend … I knew I needed to come back a different person, I needed to come back with a different mindset,” she says. It was after this realisation that she began considering different mobility support options.

Thayana began working with Vision Australia in November 2022, undergoing mobility training. In January 2023, Thayana’s trainer suggested she consider getting a Seeing Eye Dog, something Thayana believed she was not eligible for due to her being on a student visa. However, with the support of Vision Australia, she was deemed eligible and underwent the process of being matched with a dog. In October 2023, Thayana was matched with Shaylah.  

Thayana describes Shaylah as energetic, curious, and loving, and says that Shaylah is always enthusiastic about work. Thayana reflects on Shaylah’s impact on her life: “She's had a huge impact. The biggest impact she’s had is that she’s definitely given me my independence back. I’m able to leave my house and go somewhere I want to now.” Thayana’s life at her university campus has also been enriched, as she describes that by having Shaylah by her side, she’s able to experience university just like every other student does, as well as having an increase in social interactions. “I get a lot of interaction with people. She brings out that side of me, being able to talk to and interact with strangers,” she explains.  

“A dog is a 2 in 1, it’s a dog guide and a companion. You have to go out with the dog, you have to walk the dog, and the dog forces you to go out and interact with people. It forces you to go out of your comfort zone and find happiness in life,” Thayana says.  

Thayana has a message of gratitude for Seeing Eye Dogs supporters and Petbarn: “I just want to say thank you, your donations go a long way, and they really mean a lot. Giving a dog to someone is literally giving that person a ticket to freedom, a ticket to independence, a ticket to living their lives.” 

Thayana is kneeling on the ground, with her Seeing Eye Dog Shaylah sitting beside her
Thayana and Shayla