Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs has held its annual graduation ceremony to celebrate handlers and Seeing Eye Dog working teams who have successfully completed their life-changing training.
This year’s graduation welcomed 53 Seeing Eye Dogs and handlers from across Australia, marking the largest graduating class in its history.
Seeing Eye Dogs client services manager Lester Chraim said while each ceremony is a time for celebration, this year’s ceremony was particularly special.
“Countless hours, donations and support from our staff, volunteers, donors and partners go into the training of one Seeing Eye Dog, so to be celebrating over 50 graduates this year is a true testament to our continued transformation, advocacy and fundraising efforts,” Lester said.
“We know that one Seeing Eye Dog can dramatically change the life of someone who is blind or has low vision. Not only can it increase their independence and mental well-being, but it can also reduce barriers to employment.”
According to one if this year’s graduating handlers and long-standing Vision Australia client, Kate Watkins, having a Seeing Eye Dog has given her the confidence and independence to go about her everyday life.
“I had my first Seeing Eye Dog almost 50 years ago. As a young mother at the time, he empowered me to raise my children, go to work, travel and socialise without fear and barriers,” Kate said.
“50 years later, I’ve been matched with my 8th Seeing Eye Dog, Kramer, who continues to allow me to achieve my personal and professional goals and to go through life feeling supported.”
Caption: Seeing Eye Dog handlers came together to celebrate their achievements.
Victorian Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, The Hon. Lizzie Blandthorn, was among those celebrating the graduating class and their achievements.
“Seeing Eye Dogs help Victorians who are blind or have low vision to live independently and safely,” Ms Blandthorn said.
Attendees on the day had exclusive access to a live training demonstration of a young Seeing Eye Dog puppy and how the trainers set them up for success on their journey to becoming a working Seeing Eye Dog.
Representatives from Petbarn and Royal Canin were be present to celebrate the graduating class and speak to the importance of the Seeing Eye Dogs program.