Guide dog owners have spoken movingly about how the unique partnership with their dogs has given them a new lease of life.
To mark World Sight Day today, the Irish Guide Dogs (IGD) has published a series of photographs showing the owners and their dogs at various Irish landmarks to celebrate the independence and mobility their guide dog has given them.
The owners said you don’t have to be a ‘dog person’ to become a guide dog owner and the charity encouraged more visually impaired people to avail of its services.
Donnacha McCarthy, in his 20s from Cork, who lives and works in Dublin, suffered a rapid sight loss following a battle with leukaemia when he was 10.
He said his life was transformed since he was matched with Holly in 2008.
“She allows me to do what I want with total independence — be that going to work every day, going to the gym or something as simple as going for a walk,” the Blind Football Ireland squad member said.
“I can safely say she has been the best aid I’ve had since losing my sight.”
Sligo farmer Monica Wims was blinded three years ago when a cow kicked her in the face, crushing her eyes.
She said her dog, Guinness, has slotted perfectly into life on the farm and is now a member of the family.
“He motivates me to get out of the house. We go for a country walk most days,” she said.
Olive Cummins from Nenagh in Tipperary, began losing her vision six years ago due to age-related macular degeneration before being trained with Eve in 2012.
“Before Eve, I did not have a life,” Olive said.
“I was completely reliant on family and friends to get out and about. I nickname Eve the Ferrari as now I am speedily getting around town with her help. Eva has given me my life back.”
IGD access and education officer, Lean Kennedy, who named her dog, Roy, after the charity’s most famous ambassador Roy Keane, said having a guide dog can make a huge difference to a person who is vision impaired.
“It gives them back their independence and allows them to get around safely,” she said.
There are 184 guide dog partnerships across the country and just over 11,000 people registered as blind.
IGD chief executive, Padraig Mallon, said they are all eligible to apply for a guide dog which, despite costing around €38,000 to train and maintain until their retirement at the age of 10, is provided free by the charity.
A total of 32 people underwent the IGD’s intensive three-week residential training course at the charity’s headquarters on the Model Farm Road in Cork.
The charity provides full follow-up aftercare in the client’s own home.
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