Exploring caves and playing tennis, all in a day's work for Isabella and Seeing Eye Dog Penny

10 August 2022

An early retirement is hard for any dynamic duo, but when Isabella Allen’s first dog guide Tatum’s health was in decline, she knew she had to get moving with a new plan.

Isabella – who is legally blind – had already found that using a cane in her city’s central business district was not the best option.

“I broke several canes when I first started working in the CBD, People tripped over them,” Isabella said. “It’s difficult to travel through a city with a white cane with so many obstacles”.

“When you travel with a white cane, you have to find the obstacles, hit them, then move around. I just got very tired. The dog allows you to move freely around obstacles”. Handling a dog and a cane are a world apart.

In November 2021 Penny took over from Tatum, allowing him to retire.

Isabella sitting on a couch with SED Penny by her feet.
Isabella at home with Seeing Eye Dog Penny.

Isabella works for Queensland Health as a project officer in the Office of Precision Medicine and Research. She also attends University of Southern Queensland to study law.

Her eye condition will progressively worsen but outside of work and uni, Isabella enjoys a busy life, playing sport and socialising.

So everywhere Isabella goes, Penny goes too. The Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dog is a small and energetic black Labrador retriever who enjoys being on the move.

Penny finds the university lectures “very boring,” Isabella said. “She’s learning slowly that she has to settle but it’s not her favourite … She likes to run and bounce.”

Isabella at a restaurant with Seeing Eye Dog Penny by her side.
Isabella and Penny visit a restaurant together.

When Isabella goes to work, Penny is in her element. “She likes the office where people talk to her and we’re up and moving. She hates working from home.”

“Isabella plays blind tennis with a special ball. Penny sits on the side of the court and – with admirable restraint for a dog – happily watches the balls go past.

“With Tatum I travelled a lot, including a trip to Europe. I hope to do just as much travel with Penny”. The pair have visited a gem mine and enjoyed the stage show, Hamilton. The trip to Emerald, where the gem mine is located, involved flying across Queensland in a very small plane.

"Isabella being guided through a gem cave with Seeing Eye Dog Penny by her side."
Isabella leads a life of adventure with Seeing Eye Dog Penny.

“The person booking the ticket had never booked a service dog on that type of plane,” Isabella said. But Penny was fine and backed it up with another trip shortly after to Melbourne to see Hamilton.

"I hope to do more travel with Penny in the future including more trips to Melbourne and perhaps some overseas trips."

Isabella encouraged supporters of Seeing Eye Dogs to donate or volunteer to raise a puppy. “Without the puppy raisers, we wouldn’t have the Seeing Eye Dogs that give so much freedom.”