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“It can be quite nerve-wracking, if you’re quite independent, naturally to, first of all accept that you need that extra help, but then to actually put yourself out there and ask for it is even harder, but everyone at Seeing Eye Dogs is so friendly, so welcoming and no question is ever stupid. They just make it so easy.” 

At age 20, Sophie was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition that causes tunnel vision and night blindness. Unfortunately, the future of Sophie’s eyesight and the rate at which it will deteriorate remains unknown. Sophie was also diagnosed with Usher syndrome, a rare genetic disease that affects both hearing and sight, causing Sophie to be hearing impaired in both of her ears. 

12 years ago, Sophie reached out to Vision Australia for support and was provided with a visibility cane to help increase her mobility confidence. As Sophie’s eyesight continued to deteriorate, her cane was no longer enough support and Sophie was matched with Seeing Eye Dog, Yarra. Yarra supported Sophie for six years but sadly passed away at the start of 2023. Following Yarra’s passing, Sophie’s anxiety and loneliness returned, prompting her to apply for another Seeing Eye Dog. She was then matched with Winnie in August last year. “We’re a good team,” Sophie explains, “It’s clear I adore her, and that she adores me.” 

Sophie describes Winnie as a sensitive soul who takes her job very seriously.  “Winnie pretty much saved my life the other day crossing the road. She stopped when there was a car that ran through the red light, and we were halfway across the road. If she hadn’t of stopped, the driver would’ve hit me,” Sophie explains. 

The impact of both Yarra and Winnie has been life changing for Sophie. “I wouldn't be as happy as I am, I think I would be in a constant state of low-level depression, because of having to deal with everything,” she says. “I’m quite independent, but before I had Yarra, I found I wasn’t going out at lunchtime because I was getting anxiety about it. I was withdrawing from life a little bit,” Sophie adds. 

Sophie has a message of gratitude for Seeing Eye Dogs supporters and Petbarn: “I’m eternally grateful for the effort that they put in, there’s so many charities out there that need money and I'm just so grateful they’ve chosen Seeing Eye Dogs so that you guys can provide more Winnie's to people like me” she says.

Sophie standing next to her Seeing Eye Dog Winnie, who is seated next to her
Sophie and Winnie