Guide Dog Tales.

The latest news from Guide Dogs Victoria

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Yellow Labrador Duke stands in Guide Dog harness

Spring Issue 2023

Featured stories

Welcome

Dear readers,

My name is Abby Jayasuriya.

It is with great pleasure that I introduce you to this edition of Guide Dog Tales and this edition’s cover star, who is none other than my brilliant and cheeky Guide Dog, Duke!

I have Retinitis Pigmentosa, an eye condition that causes night blindness and tunnel vision. I have been a long-term client of Guide Dogs and recently became one of their Assistive Technology Specialists. It’s been amazing to be able to give back to the low-vision community through my work, which is mainly funded by your generous donations.

Duke and I were matched in October, 2022 and he is my first Guide Dog. He was an instant favourite at home, with his soft elephant ears, huge and sometimes clumsy paws, unwavering dedication and all-knowing eyes. Duke isn’t a fan of playing fetch and seems to think he’s a cat, but he loves playing with his slobbery squeaky toys and being tickled above the tail. He’s very aware that he’s a handsome boy and prances across the yard when he knows we’re going to work, in anticipation of all the love and pats he gets at the office. He is always the star but is also a placid boy with an old soul. Further, he is the most patient male shopping partner a girl could hope to find!

Abby sits outside next to her yellow Labrador, Duke.

Duke’s handsome face also features in our 2024 calendar, which is available to purchase through this year’s PAWfect presents, you can find a bit more about this later in this edition of Guide Dog Tales.

Thank you for the support that you give to Guide Dogs, without it, our wide range of services would not be as easily accessible. You are truly a champion of independence and are integral in improving quality of life for people with low vision or blindness. I hope you enjoy reading all about the incredible impact your support has made and the amazing work the team are doing.

Lastly, I also want to thank all the people who entered our colouring-in competition from our last edition. We had some beautiful and
creative entries, it was so hard for the team to choose the winners. Pictured below are a few of our favourite entries!

If you enjoyed our colouring-in competition and would like to colour in some more of our beautiful dogs, please visit our activity pages.

colourig in competition posters which have been coloured with pencils

Trusts and Foundations

Each year, Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) provides a range of exciting, fun-filled, meaningful camps for children between the ages of 6 to 17 living with low vision or blindness. GDV’s camps are run by our specialised team of Occupational Therapists and Orientation and Mobility Specialists. The camps’ aim is for children to improve their confidence and wellbeing, develop skills, gain independence and create peer connections.

For many children, GDV’s camps are the first time they meet a peer who they can relate to and share their experiences. It’s often also their first introduction to a wide range of activities that they would otherwise be excluded from, for example surfing, horse riding or rock climbing.

In June, GDV held a camp in Melbourne’s Central Business District. Twelve Primary school-aged Clients with low vision or blindness attended the camp, and participated in a range of activities including:

  • Theatre games
  • Movies, Strike Bowling and Lego Store
  • Shopping activity
  • Musical Minds
  • Meet a Guide Dog Handler
  • Ferry to Williamstown.

Thank you to Perpetual – Impact Philanthropy for supporting this camp.

A young boy holding a guitar

Pet tips

With spring in the air and the weather warming, up our expert Guide Dog training team wanted to share their 10 tips to keep your dog safe and comfortable and help them beat the heat.

  • Walk your dog at cooler times of the day like early mornings or twilight. Always check the temperature of the footpaths, roads and metal plates before walking your dog on them. A good rule is: if you can’t hold your hand on the ground for five seconds, then it’s too hot to walk on!
  • Limit your dog’s activity during the hottest part of the day (11am to 3pm) and avoid vigorous exercise or energetic play on hot days.
  • Change or top up your dog’s water bowl frequently.
  • If it’s not possible for your dog to be inside, make sure there are plenty of shady spots and access to water. A friend or relative may be able to check on your dog throughout the day.
  • Ice blocks are fun to play with outside and can cool down the dog’s water too. (Check out our tip below to create the PAWfect PUPsicle).
A yellow Labrador lying in a blue plastic shell pool
  • Paddle pools are great to play in to cool down (always supervise under-six month-old pups when paddling).
  • Lay a damp towel on your tiles for your dog to lie on.
  • Promote air circulation in your house using fans – but keep electrical cords away from sharp teeth!
  • Freeze water bottles and lay them in your puppy’s bed area so the pup can lean on them.
  • Never leave your dog in the car.

Create your own PUPsicle

In summer, our dogs-in-training love ice blocks. Fill up a plastic container, an ice cube tray or a silicone mould with low-sodium stock, kibble, and grated carrot. Not only it will cool them down, but it also keeps them busy and happy!

We care passionately about our dogs and have special practices in place to protect them from the heat in the warmer months.

Some of these practices include, starting work from 6am before it gets too hot and using these days to train on public transport and in indoor shopping centres with air conditioning. We protect our dogs’ feet from hot pavement with boots and ensure all trainers carry water for regular drink breaks. Our dogs are also groomed regularly so that their heavy under coats are removed. We also have a swimming pool on-site at Guide Dogs Victoria that the dogs can enjoy upon their return!

These are just some of the many ways we protect our trainees in the warmer months, and if the weather is over 32 degrees, we don’t take our dogs out. Instead, they get the day off and often get to enjoy some water play or relax in the air conditioning.

A yellow Labrador standing in Guide Dog harness wearing booties.

PAWfect presents

Can you believe it’s that time of the year? We have this year’s PAWfect gifts ready for you to kick start your Christmas shopping. Your much-loved favourites are back again for you to share some puppy love with your loved ones or spoil yourself!

You can make an order online at vic.pawfectpresents.com.au or by calling 1800 804 805.

Please place your order before Friday 1 December to receive your delivery before Christmas. Our office will be closed from Thursday 22 December 2023 until Thursday 4 January 2024. Any orders received during this period will be fulfilled after 4 January.

Every purchase supports our Guide Dog pups in training!

The Guide Dogs Calendar for 2023 featuring 3 yellow Labradors

Client spotlight

Five years ago, Noora felt something was wrong. She noticed that her vision was changing, and it deteriorated very quickly. Living with Retinitis Pigmentosa began to limit Noora’s world. Simple tasks like walking her daughter to kindergarten, cooking a meal, or crossing the street to grab a coffee became significant hurdles.

“The two-minute walk to a yoga studio I wanted to go to may as well have been in another universe for me. I was constantly bumping into things and hurting myself. My own home didn’t feel safe sometimes, let alone the outside world.” – Noora

Having reached out to other providers and being turned away due to the lack of NDIS funding became frustrating. She then contacted Guide Dogs and within a week had received a response. She met with Orientation & Mobility Instructor, Amy, and things started looking up for Noora.

Before meeting Amy, Noora had barely used the white cane she had. She was unsure of the best way to use it. But with Amy’s help, Noora gained confidence and started venturing out, learning different routes, significantly improving her mental health.

Noora on the beach with her white cane

After meeting with Amy, Noora was connected with other specialists at Guide Dogs, such as Assistive Technology Specialists, Occupational Therapists and Orthoptists, who made things easier for her at home. She started cooking again, continued her university degree, joined a gym and found joy in being an independent woman and mother once more.

One of Noora’s favourite activities with her daughter was reading children’s books together. It was a special bonding time wheret hey brought stories to life with fun activities. When her vision deteriorated, she couldn’t do this anymore. Orthoptist Kate assisted Noora with a piece of technology that displayed the books on a screen. She could zoom in and out, change the colours for accessibility, and once again spend that special time with her daughter.

At every step, Guide Dogs has supported Noora to ensure she received the necessary assistance. This is possible thanks to the generous support of people like you. Guide Dogs is largely funded by the generous support of the community and without it we
could not ensure anyone with low vision or blindness can access the services they need to live confidently and independently.

“Guide Dogs opened up my world again, I can get back into my hobbies and continue my university post grad degree. I am so grateful for their support.” – Noora

Eye health

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a chronic, age-related condition that affects the part of the retina where images from the central vision are focused (the macula).

Damage to this vital part of the retina can result in significant reduction or loss of central vision, although the more peripheral vision typically remains unaffected.

Australian studies estimate that AMD affects approximately one in seven Australians aged over 50, with almost 15% of those above 80 years of age experiencing blindness or vision loss due to AMD.

AMD is characterised by the presence of small yellow deposits (drusen) at the macula. The presence of drusen alone does not cause significant vision loss. AMD may progress, however, resulting in an atrophy (wasting away) of the macula (“dry” AMD) or the growth of new blood vessels which cause an accumulation of fluid at the macula (“wet” AMD). Both dry and wet AMD can cause significant vision loss.

An amsler grid

In the early stages, AMD has no visual symptoms and can only be detected via an eye examination. Specialised equipment including retinal cameras and optical coherence tomographers can be used to examine the macula for changes associated with AMD.

Regular at-home monitoring of the vision using an Amsler Grid (below) can also help detect any visual changes between appointments. Any distortion of the grid lines whilst viewing the central dot with one eye only, may be an indication of AMD progression and a prompt appointment with an Optometrist or Ophthalmologist should be arranged.

While the biggest risk factors for AMD progression are age and genetics, general health and lifestyle can also play a significant role. Smoking is a significant risk factor for this condition, and cessation of smoking will help to lower the risk of vision loss. Recent research around diet has also shown that a diet rich in antioxidants, omega-3, Zinc, vitamins C and E, selenium and low GI-carbohydrates is beneficial in significantly reducing the risk of vision loss. Alternatively, appropriate dietary supplements have been shown to have a beneficial effect on reducing disease progression for those that already have AMD.

Need more information?

Your community Optometrist or Ophthalmologist can provide eye examinations and further information on AMD. The Macular Disease Foundation Australia also has a great repository of resources specific to AMD.

Community

We are thrilled to have had Karan Nagrani join the Fundraising Team recently as Donor and Community Engagement Assistant. Karan has shared a little bit about himself below.

My name is Karan and I’m genuinely so excited to join Guide Dogs in the Fundraising team – it is a dream job for a Blind Disability Advocate like me.

I’ve had an extensive career in marketing and graphic design, working across mining, energy and not-for-profits. I’m also blind. I was diagnosed at 11 with Usher Syndrome, a rare degenerative and incurable condition leading to complete blindness. I’m determined not to allow my vision loss to impact my life and I’m motivated by a desire to help others with low/no-vision and disability.

If you have Instagram, I have a page called Pretty Fly for a Blind Guy. I’m also a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and I’m deeply passionate about breaking down misconceptions about vision loss, the “invisible disabilities”, and ableist stereotypes.

Welcome again Karan, we absolutely love having you in the team.

Guide Dogs staff member Karan Nagrani sitting on steps outside holding his white cane.

We had an incredible day recently at AGL with staff buzzing to meet and greet our wonderful Ambassador Dogs, Taffie and Keith. They also developed a new appreciation for what it’s like to live with low vision or blindness by taking part in some guiding activities under blindfold together with a “what’s in the box” challenge.

Karan Nagrani, our enthusiastic Donor and Community Engagement Assistant, also gave an educational talk about his experience of living with blindness, which the AGL staff found very valuable.

To support our cause, funds were raised through the sale of Guide Dogs merchandise, contributing to the life-changing work we do. Thank you for having us AGL, we just loved the event and seeing the enthusiasm among the team members.

Could your workplace benefit from one of our Pat and Chat events? Enquire about our corporate fundraising activities via corporate@guidedogsvictoria.com.au.

Two yellow Labradors sitting next to a poster outside a door.

Gifts in Wills

The Gifts in Wills team are excited to share that pup parents Lynney and Irving have brought an abundance of cuteness into the Guide Dogs world with the birth of nine puppies. Having had the privilege of naming these adorable pups, we couldn’t be more delighted to introduce you to the wonderful ‘W’ crew: females Willa, Wilma, Wilkie and Willoughby, and males Wilbur, Wilson, Wilfred and Wiley.

What makes this lovable litter even more special is the presence of pup Kelly, who was named in honour of the late Adrian Van De Bunt.

As a bequestor and devoted supporter of Guide Dogs, Adrian’s passion for a life without limits for people living with low vision or blindness will continue to shine brightly through Kelly.

Supporters recently had the chance to get an exclusive peek into the lives of the ‘W’ pups at our online Gifts in Wills event during Include a Charity Week. Running in the first week of September every year, this special initiative showcases the lasting impact of leaving a charitable gift in your Will.

The event not only featured the delightful pups, it also gave a glimpse into the remarkable skills of Guide Dog in training, Dixie, along with trainer Katrina. We also featured ‘Behind the Harness’ with Guide Dog Handlers Erin and Mel, who shared their experiences and answered all your burning questions about life with a Guide Dog.

A yellow Labrador lying in a bed with her puppies

Don’t worry if you missed it; we’ve got all the highlights on the Guide Dogs Australia YouTube channel!

Look out for more updates on Kelly and her siblings’ journey as they depart the nursery and embark on a new chapter, living with one of our fabulous Puppy Raisers for the next 12 months.

Each step Kelly takes is made possible by the generosity of Adrian and his decision to include Guide Dogs in his Will. One in every three Guide Dogs is made possible because of Gifts in Wills, proving that love and compassion can truly change lives.

At Guide Dogs Victoria, your generosity makes magic happen.

If you’re passionate about making a lasting impact for people living with low vision or blindness, consider leaving a gift in your Will to Guide Dogs Victoria. Call Erin on (03) 9372 4180 or email her at ering@guidedogsvictoria.com.au.

Puppy Pals

Our loveable L litter have arrived! Lady, Lenny, Lexi, Libby, Lottie, Louie and Luna are the latest pups to join the gang! These adorable pups are extra special as they are supported by our Puppy Pals who give a monthly gift to Guide Dogs.

The litter of seven were born to proud mum Olwyn and dad Wade in our nursery at Cute HQ. Our nursery staff support our breeding mums like Olwyn, when it comes time to birth their puppies and in the weeks following, to ensure both mum and pups are safe and well looked after. They get lots of love and attention that sets them up for success when the time comes to head off on their own adventures!

You can help support pups like the L litter on their journey by becoming a Puppy Pal online or by calling our team on 1800 804 805.

A black Labrador lying down with a litter of puppies

This year, Ritchies are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Community Benefit Program. Since it began 30 years ago, Ritchies has paid more than 52 million dollars into the Community, to thousands of clubs, schools, and charities.

Guide Dogs Victoria has been a beneficiary since the commencement of the program and to date, we are so grateful to have received over $334,000 which has helped the training of many Guide Dog puppies. Some of the puppies have been named from the suggestions put forward by the Ritchies community too – Billy from the B Litter and there’s even been a puppy named Ritchie and Fred, after Fred Harrison, Ritchies CEO.

We encourage the Guide Dogs community to consider shopping at Ritchies, and by scanning the registered app or Ritchies card and nominating Guide Dogs Victoria as your beneficiary of choice, Ritchies will contribute a percentage to Guide Dogs Victoria, which will allow us to support many more future Guide Dogs.

Happy 30th Anniversary Ritchies – and thank you so much for your ongoing support.

Puppy Tales

We are so excited to introduce you to a very special puppy, Pip.

In each edition of Guide Dog Tales, we will have a special section to share Pip’s Puppy Tales with you. You’ll get to follow Pip’s adventures with an exciting story or activity for you or a family member to participate in!

In the first eight weeks, Pip and her siblings’ lives are spent with their  mum. Mum and pups’ comfort and wellbeing is our highest priority so there’s plenty of rest in those first few weeks.

As the pups start to explore their surroundings, we begin their early puppy development by exposing them to different materials and soft toys. This is how we set up our future Guide Dog pups to get used to the different sounds, smells, and textures that they will come across in the big wide world.

Can you spot the 11 differences in the two scenes below?

A birth certificate. Text reads: name: Pip Born: 26 June 2023, Mum: Niro, Dad: Geoffrey
Spot the difference cartoon

Guide Dogs are fortunate to have the support of world class organisations who, through their generosity, enable us to continue to provide our world class Guide Dogs and other life-changing services such as Orientation and Mobility and Assistive Technology.

Expr3ss! Predictive Hiring Technology provide businesses the tools to quickly and cost effectively pinpoint those applicants with the ‘Can Do’ skills, ‘Will Do’ attitudes and that “Fit To” the role, team and culture.

This mirrors the process Guide Dogs adopts when we match our world class Guide Dogs with prospective Handlers. Based on interviews with the Client, we have already reviewed their lifestyle, their goals, their activity levels and even the pace of their gait.

While our dogs are in training, our Guide Dog Trainers will be observing each dog’s attributes and considering what will be the best match. It is a combination of art and science.

Expr3ss staff members crouch next to a yellow Labrador

“When we learnt about the exacting process that Guide Dogs uses to match people with low vision or blindness with a Guide Dog, we knew that our missions aligned. Our staff love partnering with Guide Dogs and we have the privilege of following the journey of Echo, a puppy who was born within the Guide Dogs extraordinary breeding program and is now working on socialisation and foundation training with their volunteer Puppy Raiser.”

Says Carolyne Burns, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Expr3ss!.

“At the heart of the Expr3ss! – Predictive Hiring Technology ecosystem is the mission of finding applicants jobs they will love and flourish in! Just as Guide Dogs thrive when working in a team to enable their Handler to live with independence.

“While we don’t try to work out the gait of our candidates, we do look at their skills, attitudes and cultural fit. And they are rewarded, not with kibble, like bundles of fluff like Echo, but with a role which meets their needs and goals. This creates engagement, encourages productivity and improves businesses.” Carolyne says.

Just like the work our Guide Dogs do with their Handlers, this is a win win. Our Guide Dogs are rewarded by working as a focussed team, because our dogs truly do love their work, and our Handlers are rewarded with greater freedom.

Our Partners

  • advance logo
  • boehringer ingelheim logo
  • Coles logo.
  • Expr3ss! Predictive Hiring Technology
  • flybuys logo.
  • Greenstone
  • IDEXX Laboratories
  • KONG logo
  • Petstock Foundation
  • Ritchies IGA logo
  • tpg logo
  • Ugly fish
  • woolworths group logo

Your donations to Guide Dogs Victoria help us to continue our important work, including matching Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs, Orientation and Mobility services and Occupational Therapy through almost 3,000 Client programs.

For more information, call 1800 804 805.

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