Guide dogs are superheroes, says owner
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DURBAN - A GUIDE dog has given a visually impaired uMhlanga woman a new lease of life.
The South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Guide Dog Day on Wednesday.
This important day not only recognises the difference that guide dogs make in the lives of people who are visually impaired, but also celebrates the dedicated supporters and employees who train dogs.
Joanne Garrett, 59, who is visually impaired, has had Enid, a white Labrador, as a guide dog for three years.
Garrett calls Enid a “superhero”.
Garrett has been legally blind for nearly 30 years. She was not coping without sight. Before Enid she had frequent accidents and falls. Garrett said Enid had given her independence and that she was now able to go for lengthy walks and not get lost.
Garrett frequents a nearby shopping centre and is an avid walker.
“I know my home like the back of my hand. I needed help going to the shop. I can misjudge pavements and door entrances. Enid is very well trained. Walking to the centre, I can tell Enid to take me to a particular store. Enid understands and guides me there. She is also trained to go on to the escalator. I love my independence,” Garrett said.
She said the association did a tremendous amount of work to inform and educate the public about guide dogs. Enid was trained to walk around obstacles on the pavement, stop at the edges of pavements and help her owner cross the road.
“My life is in Enid’s hand. She is very special. For a year, she was raised by a Welsh family. They also named her. I had training in Johannesburg. The trainer paired you with a dog that suited your character and physical features. It has been a remarkable emotional experience. It is a good thing in life to accept help,” Garrett said.
The association’s event manager Jackie Quail said they bred and trained guide dogs for people who were visually impaired, service dogs for people who were physically disabled and autism support dogs for children who were on the low autism spectrum.