Guide dogs grow con­fi­dence

The Invercargill Eye - - FRONT PAGE - RE­BECCA MOORE

Af­ter becoming a widow nearly six years ago, In­ver­cargill woman Pam Smith no­ticed her eye­sight de­te­ri­o­rat­ing.

Even­tu­ally, she de­cided to ap­ply for a guide dog to help her with daily tasks she was struggling with.

At the time, she was told the process would take a year to 18 months to go through, but luck­ily within a week she was paired up with Andy.

Now more than five years later, Smith be­lieves she was matched with the per­fect dog.

‘‘I was re­ally lucky to get Andy ... he’s brilliant,’’ she said.

Andy was ‘‘a plod­der’’ so per­fect for her needs. She also tried one other dog – ‘‘a run­ner’’ – who wasn’t suited to her lifestyle.

How­ever, Andy still loved be­ing a dog – getting his har­ness off and run­ning around, Smith said.

‘‘But he also works well. He gets me out and about, oth­er­wise I’d be re­luc­tant to catch a bus or any­thing.’’

Smith could tell Andy to take her to the doc­tor, hair­dresser or coun­cil of­fice, and no mat­ter the route, they would get there ev­ery time.

‘‘He’s just so good ... I wouldn’t be without him now.

‘‘He’s changed my life and let’s me live in­de­pen­dently.’’

Smith be­lieves the Blind Foun­da­tion’s Red Puppy Ap­peal col­lec­tion, na­tion­wide on March 23 and 24, was an im­por­tant cause to raise funds to train more dogs like Andy.

It was im­por­tant to help peo­ple in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions as her, who de­pended on the help of a ser­vice dog, she said. Thou­sands of dol­lars goes into breed­ing and train­ing each guide dog.

The breed­ing and train­ing is funded by pub­lic do­na­tions and spon­sor­ships.

South­land Red Puppy Ap­peal team leader Liz An­stice said there was cur­rently no wait­ing list of peo­ple need­ing guide dogs in South­land, but there were about five peo­ple in the re­gion who had dogs.

An­stice has about 50 per cent vi­sion, so knows first hand how im­por­tant hav­ing a guide dog is.

‘‘We have our white canes, but they don’t give you a lot of con­fi­dence. With a guide dog there’s a lot more con­fi­dence to get out eas­ier.

‘‘We’re more in­de­pen­dent with a guide dog than a white cane.’’

An­stice ex­pected about 20 vol­un­teers to col­lect for the cause at su­per­mar­kets, events and the Women’s Lifestyle Expo in April. It’s only hair and peo­ple fight­ing cancer have to go through a lot more, says Ron­nie McCort who has shaved her hair again.

McCort is among four In­ver­cargill City Coun­cil staff mem­bers who shaved their heads for a Cancer So­ci­ety fundraiser yesterday.

When McCort’s mother lost her hair af­ter un­der­go­ing chemo­ther­apy she shaved hers off so her mum did not feel alone.

McCort, a team ad­min­is­tra­tor at the coun­cil, joined en­vi­ron­men­tal health man­ager John Young­son, se­nior en­vi­ron­men­tal health of­fi­cer Ann Thomp­son, and team ad­min­is­tra­tor Bar­bara Grieve to shave their hair at the Shear the Hair 4 Cancer event.

They will sport their new shaved heads at the Re­lay for Life fundraiser this week­end.

Aside from McCort, the other three staff mem­bers shaved their hair for the first time be­cause each had been touched by cancer in some way.

Young­son was in re­mis­sion him­self af­ter fight­ing prostate cancer. ‘‘ Chemo­ther­apy is ter­ri­ble. You don’t re­alise it un­til you’ve been through it,’’ he said.

More than $1000 has al­ready been raised by the team.

RE­BECCA MOORE/STUFF

Pam Smith with her guide dog Andy.

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