I was born prematurely and while receiving oxygen to assist my breathing, I was given an overdose, which caused my retinas to detach.
My husband Quentin also has limited vision. He was born with congenital cataracts and, after surgery, was left with only 25 per cent vision.
Quentin works at Vision Australia and I stay at home with our two daughters. Because Quentin works for Vision Australia, we were aware of their wonderful services. One of the divisions of Vision Australia is Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SEDA) and with a one-year wait list, I was lucky to receive a Seeing Eye Dog to help me navigate through my life. Best of all, I have a new best friend and a sense of independence – all at no cost.
My first Seeing Eye Dog, Destiny had to retire last year as she was having seizures and could no longer safely provide me with assistance. Two months ago, I was matched with my second Seeing Eye Dog, Nikita. As much as I love Nikita, I couldn’t bear to give Destiny away so we chose to keep her as our pet, so she could enjoy her retirement with the family that loves her the most.
When we met Nikita, my daughters reacted differently. My oldest adored Nikita from day one, instantly climbing all over her. Because it was all quite new, my youngest found her a bit confronting and was very shy around her. She wasn’t as happy as her sister to be licked!
After some time, the girls created a bond with Nikita and they just adore having both the dogs around them every day. They understand that they have to treat Nikita differently to Destiny because she is a working dog, but they understand the boundaries and shower her with much love and affection.
When I used to be alone with the kids I was really hesitant to take them to the playground because I was so worried that something would happen. Now because of my seeing eye dog Nikita, I feel safe and confident to take the kids to the park on my own. I don’t feel so guilty anymore and I don’t feel like my eyesight is holding them back and this has really made me much happier as a parent and as a mother.
Thanks to Nikita, I now feel confident to walk my daughter to her first day of kindy next year. While she is excited about the prospect of showing off Nikita, I am just so happy that I can be part of it, and not let my vision interfere with special moments like these.
To have the extra support of a seeing eye dog throughout my day to day life means that I can approach every day with confidence. Simple things that many people would take for granted; such as crossing a road on their own or going on public transport, used to be incredibly stressful for me, but Nikita helps me navigate through these otherwise complicated tasks.
My girlfriends are astonished that this ordinary looking dog can understand when to stop at traffic lights, where to take me when I go down the street and have such impeccable patience around the kids.
I always explain how hard she has worked and trained to get to this stage and that I wouldn’t have a seeing eye dog if it wasn’t for the wonderful community members who donate and sponsor these dogs. It costs $30,000 to train just one seeing eye dog, and I could never afford this myself. But the fact that SEDA can gift that to me warms my heart.
A lot of volunteer work has gone into firstly Destiny and now Nikita, and they give their time so generously so that people like me, can have an even better life. Every time I think of it, I truly get blown away by the amazing people in our society, who selflessly give so much of their time and love to helping others.
To help care for a gorgeous SEDA pup and help turn them into a life-changing Seeing Eye Dog like Nikita and Destiny, or to sponsor a puppy (and receive regular updates as they grow into a Seeing Eye Dog) call SEDA on 1800 03 7773 or visit www.seda.org.au