An amazing story of achievement and dedication

June 08, 2017

An amazing pioneer of Guide Dogs SA was Clive Thelning.  He worked tirelessly in the promotion of Guide Dogs and was known as a wonderful man with a keen sense of humour.  His is a story of achievement out of rollercoaster emotions, re-assessment and relocation.

In 1953 a young and sighted Clive Thelning completed a four year course in French polishing at the Institute of Technology in Sydney and was then asked to go on with his studies including personnel and management. It culminated in his attaining an appointment as a fulltime teacher in the technical section of the Institute.    Ironically it was only the day after he accepted the appointment that he was advised that he would lose his sight within six months.

Understandably there followed a period of rollercoaster emotions, re- assessment and relocation.  Clive and his new bride Yvonne moved to South Australia where Clive’s parents were living at the time.  Yvonne went back to her trade as a tailor and Clive displayed his adaptability by learning about chicken husbandry which ultimately led to him running his own business as a marketing agent.

It was his realisation of how much he relied on Yvonne that caused him to leave his booming business to return to the Royal Institute for the Blind.  Conversations there set the path his life would follow.  By talking to other owners Clive learned of the benefits and freedom a Guide Dog would afford him.  He applied for a Guide Dog and in March 1963 went to the National Centre in Kew to be matched and trained with his dog.  A month later he returned home as proud owner of King (whom we introduced you to in our amazing dog stories).

Upon his return he joined Apex and in 1967 became Public Relations Officer for Guide Dogs SA/NT.  His office was virtually a one man show in a room on the first floor of the Steamship Building in Adelaide but that did not stop him from being incredibly active in his role.  That first year saw him, along with King, travel to Alice Springs by train. Whilst there Clive talked to those interested in forming an Auxiliary, Service clubs, schools and School of the Air.

Clive’s whole family embraced Guide Dogs with his wife Yvonne becoming the first resident mobility instructor in SA having trained at the National Centre.  His children were involved in hosting visitors who were warmly welcomed to their home in West Croydon, his daughter Dawn, on meet and greet duties, explaining that the strap on the gate was to keep her small brother (who after all was a BOY) in.  On reflection Dawn cheekily decided that Guide Dogs must have more brains as King, also a BOY, was sooooo good!

King sadly passed away while still working on a public relations trip to Darwin having served Clive and the wider Guide Dog community for eight years.

Vale King.