International Guide Dog Day, Wednesday 24 April, celebrates the important role Guide Dogs play supporting people around the world.

In our second interview with one of our participants, we spoke with Marie, from Freshwater in New South Wales, to find out about their experience of having the support of a Guide Dog. Here’s what we found out…

I lost my vision in March 2003.  While I was still in hospital I was visited by an Occupational Therapist from the Guide Dogs Association. When they explained my vision impairment was permanent they offered their many services to me. The initial step was learning to use a cane. Just walking I found to be really difficult and frightening.  When one loses their vision, life takes on a whole different meaning. Choosing clothes, showering, washing my hair; which is shampoo and which is conditioner?

One day I was out walking with my Occupational Therapist, she suggested I consider getting a Guide Dog. My instant response was, what would I do with a dog?  Shortly after I was visited by John Payne, who later became the Manager of Guide Dogs Newcastle. John told me he needed to get to know me, my needs, goals in life as they will match the dog to the needs of the individual.

The next step I found myself in Sydney with a group of six people from all over Australia who were being trained in how to use the Guide Dogs. We were instructed on how to care for ourselves, fall prevention, caring for the dog, grooming, feeding and everything else that involves looking after a dog.  We were there for a few days training when we were then introduced to our respective dogs. I put my hand on my dog and said out loud, I hope he comes with a saddle. He was enormous. However, Lockie and I became inseparable. He just gave me a new lease on life. In the beginning when I found it so difficult to walk, Lockie showed me that it could be done.  After several months, one day it just hit me that I could rely on him to take out without me worrying too much. Lockie only needed to be shown once how to get on and off buses, trains, taxis, escalators and any other transport we needed. He took me to the supermarket, recognised my friends and opened up a whole new world to me.

At this point I was ready to undertake more activities. I learned how to touch type through the Royal Blind Society which involved Lockie getting us on a bus, then the train and walking a kilometre to our destination. My next venture was learning to spin and weave which I do to this day.  In 2012 I decided that I would like to learn to do ballroom dancing. Naturally I found it somewhat difficult in the beginning but once I got the knack to listening and following the music there was no stopping me. I now do dancing twice a week. I’ve been on two cruises which have been wonderful. To-date, I have had three dogs, Charlie being the second and now I have Uma who is five years old.

All that’s left to say is that all my dogs have become my best friends, and I don’t know how my life would have been without them.  The trust, nurturing, love companionship and loyalty I have got from all my dogs has enabled to be the confident, independent person I am today.  Words will never be able to express how thankful I am for all that Guide Dogs Australia and the NDIS have done to enable me to live with dignity and independence.

You can find out more, or make a donation, by visiting Guide Dogs Australia


Please remember that Guide Dogs can go wherever you go – it’s legislated, so we can’t be refused entry to a building, event, cafe, shop or anywhere including using transport (buses, trains, trams, taxis, planes).

Please don’t pat a Guide Dog when they are wearing a harness – the harness is like a uniform to the dog, and it signals to them they are ‘on duty’.