International Guide Dog Day comes at a time when we couldn’t be more grateful to these life-changing dogs, and the role they play in the lives of people with low vision or blindness.
Times of struggle always remind us what makes Guide Dogs so special - from the practical support they offer to people with low or no vision, to the comfort and companionship that is needed now more than ever.
To mark the day, April 29, we’ve spoken to Redcliffe Guide Dog handler Brian Bush to find out what makes his dog Lambert so special.
Brian has slowly been losing his vision since he was six years old. Now aged 81, he jokes that it’s a “long and slow process (and) you can’t rush these things”.
This positive attitude and ability to laugh through tough times has served Brian well. Doctors are still unable to say what’s caused him to lose his vision.
Losing your sight is difficult to comprehend, but losing the ability to do the ‘normal’ things you once could is the most difficult part.
“Having a Guide Dog really gave me my freedom and mobility back,” Brian explains. “The best thing in the world is wanting to go for a walk, or go to the shops on your own and having the freedom to do that. That’s what a Guide Dog gives you.”
Brian sought help from Guide Dogs Queensland at Bald Hills in early 1995. By October that year, he was matched with his first Guide Dog, Nickel. When Nickel retired, his second Guide Dog Cody became his companion.
Now, life with Lambert is just as wonderful.
“I will never take those normal things for granted ever again,” Brian says. “When I want to go for a walk, I say ‘OK, Lambert. Let’s go for a walk’ and his tail is up in the air and he’s ready to go.”
“Most people probably don’t realise how much is involved with finding your perfect match. Not just me having the perfect Guide Dog, but also that I’m the right fit for the dog. Every one of my Guide Dogs has been perfect.
“Our favourite thing to do is walk along the Redcliffe waterfront, and every so often Lambert veers off. I’m wondering what he’s doing, but I trust him completely, so I follow. I reach out my hand to see where he has stopped, and it’s a seat. Lambert is telling me to sit down and have a rest, but also to take a minute and look out over the water, appreciate where I live, and realise how lucky I am.”
With more than 90% of Guide Dogs Queensland’s funding coming from generous community donations, Brian’s keen to thank the shops for having “collection dogs” and the community for their generous donations.
It costs $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and match a Guide Dog.
“Without the support of my community, I would not have been so lucky to have the three brilliant Guide Dogs I have, nor would I be able to go out on my own, go to the shops, or enjoy a walk along the beach.”
Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Michael Kightley also thanks the community for its unwavering support of Guide Dogs since the organisation formed 60 years ago, in May 1960.
“To be involved in the process of changing someone’s life is truly remarkable,” Mr Kightley says.
“People with blindness or low vision often feel isolated from their community because they don’t have the confidence to take part in the activities they once used to. When the handler and Guide Dog are matched, there is an unprecedented level of confidence, safety, and freedom for the person – and an undeniable bond between Guide Dog and handler that is like no other.”
Visit the Guide Dogs Queensland website
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