Celebrating International Guide Dog Day, 2021
To celebrate International Guide Dog Day (28 April), we’re sharing the stories of some of our newest Guide Dog teams: Sacha and Guide Dog Jesse, Anthony and Guide Dog Kit and Rodney and Guide Dog Dakota.
Each partnership is unique and meaningful, but Sacha, Anthony and Rodney all share similar sentiments about the positive difference their Guide Dog has in their lives.
Sacha and Guide Dog Jesse
When Sacha and Guide Dog Jesse graduated as a team this year, it was a dream come true for 21-year-old Sacha.
Sacha has been working side-by-side with Guide Dogs staff since she was three-years-old. She learned to use a white cane at the age of just four, but has always dreamed of being paired with a Guide Dog – just like mum Alison, who is also a Client of Guide Dogs.
Alison was matched with her first Guide Dog, Bridget, when Sacha was born, so Sacha has never known life at home without a Guide Dog in the family.
Alison has been paired with her current Guide Dog, Logan, since 2015, and has always hoped that Sacha could enjoy the same safety, independence, and companionship that Logan provides her.
Alison’s hope was realised when Jesse arrived in South Australia from New South Wales as part of our national Dog Centre of Excellence. Sacha and Jesse started out with a trial walk to test their walking speeds. Jesse is small (only 23kg) but she’s a ‘pocket rocket’, just like Sacha.
“Jessie is speedy, focussed and very cheeky,” said Sacha.
“She’s a great match for me – we’re both very fast walkers.”
Together, Sacha and Jesse completed intensive training with Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Patrick.
This included safely navigating the journey from home to University, where Sacha is studying a double degree in Media and Computer Science with a major in Japanese.
Sacha found the experience ‘freeing’ and can’t wait to spend more time in the community, confidently doing what she wants to do, and meeting friends wherever they suggest – not just in places she’s familiar with.
“I can’t wait to be able to travel freely through the city. I’ll be able to explore new areas and take new routes, knowing I can trust Jesse.
“I’ll be able to walk through Rundle Mall, even on a busy day, which is something I’d never have contemplated before.
“Jesse will give me the confidence to take on life’s challenges and spend more time out and about doing what I want to do.”
Anthony and Guide Dog Kit
In contrast to Sacha, Anthony describes himself as a Guide Dog ‘veteran’, with 40 years of experience as a Guide Dog Handler.
Earlier this year, we celebrated the partnership between Anthony and his new Guide Dog, Kit.
Anthony believes there’s no better way to explore the world than with a Guide Dog by his side. He’s even hitchhiked across Australia and New Zealand with the support of a Guide Dog.
“Guide Dogs have brought a great deal of fun to my life,” said Anthony.
“I also get enjoyment from working so closely with an animal, and the two-way communication with your dog that that becomes more intimate over time.”
Anthony is an accomplished athlete, author and musician. His incredible achievements are a testament to his perseverance and hard work.
Anthony lost his vision instantly after a car accident at the age of 17, with very little education and not a lot to support himself.
Through determination and a positive mindset, Anthony was able to ‘re-educate’ himself. He excelled in the sport of Judo, becoming a dual World and Paralympic Vision Impaired Judo Champion and also twice won the Australian Judo Championships, where he competed against sighted people. He’s even ‘thrown’ two former Prime Ministers – Bob Hawke and John Howard! More recently, in 2018, Anthony was inducted in to the South Australian Sports Hall of Fame.
Anthony wrote and published his autobiography and motivational book, ‘Achieving the Impossible’ and is a recipient of the Order of Australia Medal. He’s also an inspirational speaker, and encourages people to break barriers and become leaders.
Guide Dogs has supported Anthony to live life the way he wants, with freedom and independence. Anthony has become so fond of Guide Dogs that he completed a Canine massage course and now runs his own business as a dog masseur.
Rodney and Guide Dog Dakota
Not even a global pandemic could keep Rodney and new Guide Dog Dakota apart.
Rodney and Dakota graduated as a team late last year after participating in socially-distanced training and other innovative practices during COVID-19 restrictions.
Rodney has always enjoyed an active lifestyle. He’s a father and grandfather, and even runs a lone fathers association support group. He lives independently and catches the bus to get out and about in his community.
Rodney was born with Congenital Glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eye and gradually kills the optic nerve.
Now, Rodney has no vision remaining in his left eye, and tunnel vision in his right eye.
Before his vision decreased, Rodney regularly walked the Linear Trail in Adelaide’s north-east and hiked Morialta Falls.
In 2013, Rodney reached out to Guide Dogs for support with maintaining his freedom and independence.
He worked side-by-side with our expert Guide Dogs team for Occupational Therapy and Cane Training, as well as support with Assistive Technology, while joining the waitlist as a high-priority candidate for a Guide Dog.
Rodney needed a Guide Dog that would complement his walking style and share his love of the outdoors. In July last year, Dakota came to Adelaide from Sydney, and into Rodney’s life – and heart.
The pair hit it off on their matching walk on July 13 and after months of training together, graduated exactly three months later in October. Dakota is supporting Rodney to be active again, and live life the way he wants.
“Dakota has made my life so much easier and I’m a lot more independent. She’s also wonderful company and certainly keeps me busy!” said Rodney.