WA Seeing Eye Dog clients take to parliament for Dogtober

23 October 2019

Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs clients have taken the chance to meet with Stephen Dawson, WA Minister for Environment; Disability Services; Electoral Affairs to discuss the importance of Seeing Eye Dogs.

The opportunity was part of “Dogtober”, a month dedicated to raising awareness and educating around the vital role assistance dogs play.

Four Seeing Eye Dog clients met with the minister and shared their personal experiences. Across the four, there was a strong common theme of the value Seeing Eye Dogs have bought to their lives and the independence they have provided.

It costs around $50,000 to train a Seeing Eye Dog and can take up to two years.

Seeing Eye Dog clients Kate and Therese have recently been matched with their first Seeing Eye Dogs. After having dog guides from different organisations in the past, they have recently returned from Melbourne where they have been training with their new dogs.

Client Karen with Vega SED, Minister Dawson, Client Therese with Yael

PD: Client Karen with Vega SED, Minister Dawson, Client Therese with Yael

In 2012 Kate was diagnosed with Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (HON) a genetic disease which causes blurring and cloudiness of vision.

Legally blind, but still living life to the fullest Kate has not been deterred by her vision loss, nor has it slowed her down and has recently been matched with Dylan, her Seeing Eye Dog.

“Having an assistance dog has definitely helped me to be more confident when out,” Kate said.

“I’m not worried about running into things or people, I can continue to navigate my way around, and do it safely and at my usual fast pace,” she said.

Therese became legally blind following a vehicle accident in her 20’s, which severed her optical nerve.

“It’s a shock going from everything being ok to no longer being able to drive, or easily do things you used to take for granted. With the help from Vision Australia and Seeing Eye Dogs, I’ve been able to regain my independence,” Therese said.

“Yael is my second assistance dog, having a Seeing Eye Dog has helped me in more ways than one, obviously the independence of being able to get around on my own but also with that comes confidence and courage,” she said.

 I have a lovely family and some great friends but I don’t want to rely on them and having a Seeing Eye Dog has enabled me to get out and do the things I want to do when I want to do them, we go to the beach, cafes and the shops together.”

Therese got her first Seeing Eye Dog Bess four weeks before her husband passed away and a couple of months before being diagnosed with breast cancer.

“For me Bess has been so much more than just a Seeing Eye Dog and I think it’s really important that people understand the many roles that these assistance dogs can play in our lives”. Bess is now retired and living with Therese and Yael.

Karen was relatively young when diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, knowing what lay ahead in regards to vision loss Karen made the most of things learning typing at school, an invaluable skill and travelled extensively overseas. She is now matched with Seeing Eye Dog Vega.

“I think having my disability has made my life very interesting. I have been totally blind now for around 10 years. I live life with challenges daily, but there is usually a way around them. I have become more articulate, have more confidence and have a better sense of humour since becoming blind. I experience about two blatant acts of discrimination a month, but almost every day I am offered help from others,” Karen said.

“I urge people to keep their eyes safe and rested, but I also feel it is not the end of the world losing sight. There are so many ways around barriers. Screen readers on computers; voice over and Siri on iPhone; a number of excellent apps to assist on smartphones; and our wonderful Seeing Eye Dogs who can walk us safely to places we want to access,” she said.

They can go almost everywhere in our country, including public transport, cafes and in the aircraft with you. They are brilliant and look after you so well. Vega is like a best friend!”

Group of clients with Seeing Eye Dogs and and Minister Dawson

PD: Group of clients with Seeing Eye Dogs and and Minister Dawson

Max who is legally blind, as a result of Stargadts, has not let his vision loss slow him down.

With Forest his Seeing Eye Dog at his side milking 40 camels, on a 280 hectare property is just another day at DromeDairy, the camel farm Max owns and runs with his wife Ronja.

“Forest comes everywhere with me on the farm, the camels barely even notice me with Forest around”, Max, who has had Forest for seven years now, said.

Forest has also travelled extensively with Max, including multiple trips to Europe.

“Forest isn’t just a companion he is an invaluable aid in assisting me to get around safely whether at the farm or out in the community.”