As featured in Shepparton News, VIC page 5, 3 October 2014.
Loyal companion Mitchell is more than just a dog to Shepparton's Ron Murley, he is also his eyes.
Seeing Eye Dog Mitchell, who will turn two in December, arrived at the Murley household in August and quickly took his place at Mr Murley's feet.
Mr Murley has a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease commonly referred to as tunnel vision.
"I've only got a narrow width of vision and no field of vision either," he said.
He was diagnosed with the condition at 20 and was told he was legally blind in March 1983 when he was 38.
Golden Labrador Mitchell has taken over duties from black Labrador Retriever cross Eden, 10, who is enjoying a luxurious life of retirement as a pet in the Murley household.
Mr Murley said the Dogs were lovable, friendly companions for himself and wife Denise.
"But once you put the harness on, they become a working dog and are waiting for instructions and concentrating on what's around them," he said.
He said his vision had recently also begun to cloud over, leaving him reliant on Mitchell and previously Eden when leaving his home.
Mr Murley said the Seeing Eye Dogs were his opportunity for independence.
"It gives you freedom. I know I can walk down to the bank on Wyndham St safely," he said.
"Without the Dogs, I would be completely reliant on Denise."
Mitchell accompanies Mr Murley on almost-daily walks around the lake and also into town to run errands at the bank, doctors, chemists and shops.
As part of their two-year training, the intelligent Dogs learn to associate words with routes to different places and memorise paths to different locations.
"They'll identify whether to take the steps or the ramps, depending on what words you say," he said.
"They'll also take you around any obstacles."
Mr Murley said representatives from Seeing Eye Dogs visited several times a year to check on Mitchell's progress.
The organisation is calling on the generosity of people to help continue to train puppies, such as Mitchell and Eden.
Each Seeing Eye Dog costs about $35,000 to train and there is a six month wait list for people needing a dog.
Puppy sponsorship starts from $20 a month and can help turn a puppy into a dog that can change a vision impaired person's life.
To sponsor a puppy, visit www.sed.org.au or phone 1800 037 773.
Picture by: Ray Sizer
Caption: Vital helpers: Ron Murley with Seeing Eye Dogs Eden (retired) and Mitchell.