Guide dogs grow confidence
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.
Pam Smith with her guide dog Andy.