Henry and Bev mark spe­cial friend­ship

Tweed Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - Daniel Mcken­zie daniel.mcken­zie@tweed­dai­lynews.com.au ■ To book Bev Lars­son to speak to your class, school, busi­ness or com­mu­nity group, email speak­ers@ guide­dogs.com.au. Or­der 60 Tails at www.guide­dogs.com.au/60tails.

FEA­TUR­ING in a new book to cel­e­brate the 60th an­niver­sary of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT marks a spe­cial jour­ney for Bev Lars­son and her beloved guide dog, Henry.

The pair, who were brought to­gether six-and-a-half years ago, fea­ture in a col­lec­tion of 60 short sto­ries en­ti­tled 60 Tails.

The book traces the essence of a com­pan­ion­ship formed in the af­ter­math of a life-chang­ing pe­riod eight years ago, when an idyl­lic dream set­ting on a beau­ti­ful In­done­sian is­land turned into a night­mare.

“I’d been scuba div­ing, Baz (her hus­band) had been surf­ing and we’d prob­a­bly been through 15 dif­fer­ent is­lands in the In­done­sian ar­chi­pel­ago,” Bev said.

“We re­turned to a beau­ti­ful lit­tle is­land off the tip of Aceh, it was a jun­gle-meets-the-ocean environment.

“We no­ticed how de­pleted fam­i­lies still were, there was no sup­port for them. I told Baz I’d re­ally like to help, so I sug­gested build­ing a bun­ga­low for them to rent to tourists and for us to live in when we vis­ited.”

Stitch­ing to­gether two de­com­mis­sioned tsunami shel­ters, the pair set about build­ing a villa with a stu­dio and a par­tially roofed plat­form of­fer­ing mag­nif­i­cent views.

“Half­way through do­ing that, I came back from a shop­ping ex­pe­di­tion and strug­gled up an ex­ter­nal stair­case. I said to Baz, ‘I don’t feel well, I think I’ll go lie down,’ ” she said.

“Ev­ery­thing was re­ally sil­very and I was re­ally photo-pho­bic. The next time I woke up, Baz asked how I was feel­ing and I said, ‘Have you wo­ken me in the mid­dle of the night?’ he said, ‘It’s day­light, Bev,’ but ev­ery­thing was com­pletely black.”

Rush­ing to Sin­ga­pore, Bev spent 10 days in hospi­tal but was re­lieved when her vi­sion be­gan to slowly re­turn.

“I thought it was go­ing to be okay and within three months it was slowly com­ing back,” she said.

“So I was on the up, then ev­ery­thing went pear-shaped again.”

Al­ways the op­ti­mist, Bev was con­fi­dent her vi­sion would again re­turn but dur­ing a visit to Syd­ney Eye Hospi­tal she was told her vi­sion loss was per­ma­nent and she’d “bet­ter get used to it”.

The abrupt loss of eye­sight was due to a toxin at­tack­ing her op­tic nerves, re­sult­ing in bi­lat­eral op­tic nerve at­ro­phy.

“It was crush­ing and the bot­tom fell out of my pit and I went tum­bling down,” Bev said.

Faced with an uncer­tain fu­ture and deal­ing with other is­sues with fam­ily, things were tough for Bev. But then along came Henry.

“The best anti-de­pres­sant I ever could have ever had is (Henry),” she said.

“He has turned my life around, he’s so much fun and has the best sense of hu­mour.

“Henry trans­formed my life, giv­ing me free­dom and a new-found in­de­pen­dence to sup­port heal­ing.

“He is clever and sen­si­tive and some­times I feel as though he can read my mind.”

The pair work as a dy­namic duo in Bev’s for­mal em­ploy­ment with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

As a pub­lic re­la­tions speaker, Bev trav­els around the com­mu­nity, pro­vid­ing a true-life ac­count of what it is like to have vi­sion loss but still live an in­spir­ing, in­de­pen­dent life.

“I take him to schools and he speaks on com­mand. If I ask him how old he is he barks eight times, kids love it,” she said.

While the en­ter­tain­ing vis­its are en­joy­able, Bev also im­parts the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing guide dog guide­lines.

“I’m also a co-au­thor of a book called Along Came Henry. It’s pretty much our biog­ra­phy and I re­cite the story to the kids,” she said.

“At the back of the book is my mas­ter plan of how to be­have around a guide dog. He needs to keep me safe, as if he’s dis­tracted, he’s lost his mojo for me.”

Af­ter learn­ing Braille and us­ing var­i­ous aids to as­sist her in get­ting around her Hast­ings Point home, Bev min­imises her chances of in­jury.

She cooks from scratch us­ing a recipe book, swims in the back­yard pool pi­o­neered from a ship­ping con­tainer and dab­bles in gar­den­ing.

While she has ad­justed to life as best she can, Bev said it hasn’t been smooth sail­ing.

“I never had a crash course in be­ing blind,” she said.

“I’ve picked up a cup of tea from the sink to have a sip and found out it was dish­wa­ter, I’ve eaten mouldy bread and I’ve put shav­ing cream on my tooth­brush.”

But whether it’s walks on the beach, yoga class, trav­el­ling or sim­ply pro­tec­tion, Bev said Henry had been her “sal­va­tion”, which is doc­u­mented among the sto­ries shared in 60 Tails.

“Henry dons his work­ing har­ness like a uni­form,” she said.

“He is clever, sen­si­tive and I am so grate­ful to have been gifted an amaz­ing guide, pro­tec­tor and buddy. He has been my sal­va­tion.”


BEST MATES: Bev Lars­son and Henry share a mo­ment in the gar­den with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT an­niver­sary book 60 Tails.


The dy­namic duo en­joy walks on the beach, just a stone’s throw from Bev’s Hast­ings Point home.


Ms Lars­son and Henry entertain the kids dur­ing a school visit.

Henry ac­com­pa­nies Bev on a flight.

Bev said Henry loves the beach and loves to play.

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