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Guide Dog Tales.

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Yellow Labrador Manton standing outside smiling

Winter 2023

The latest news from Guide Dogs Victoria

Welcome

As the new Chief Executive Officer of Guide Dogs Victoria, I am thrilled to welcome you to the winter edition of our Guide Dog Tales newsletter. I am honoured to assume this position to support people with low vision or blindness, to live the life of their choosing.

Since commencing in mid-April, I have had the pleasure of meeting many of our Clients, volunteers, supporters and partners. I have an overwhelming sense of positivity about our future and the dedication of our supporters.

A few weeks ago, I had the honour of opening the doors and welcoming all of our employees to our new accessible office space and The Betty Amsden Education Centre, located at our Kew Campus. As many of you are aware, The ‘Future is in Sight’ project has been years in the making and involves the transformational redevelopment of our historical site in Kew, to create a state of the art, contemporary, fully accessible sensory campus. It will include a world-class training centre, residential accommodation for Clients todevelop independent living skills, a dog training precinct and a community education hub. We are planning a number of activities and events in the next few months and can’t wait to show you our new space!

Nicky Long holding a yellow Labrador puppy

I also had the pleasure of meeting some of our volunteers who attended our National Volunteer Week events. We simply couldn’t deliver our vital services and support to people with low vision or blindness without our volunteers. Their passion, commitment and dedication is so appreciated.

Please enjoy reading all about our important work, the achievements of our Clients, the generosity of our bequestors and the
incredible services provided by our dogs. Thank you for your ongoing support, which makes it all possible.

Best regards,
Nicky Long
Chief Executive Officer

Our latest cover star Manton was supported by one of our generous corporate partners. Manton graduated as a Therapy Dog and was placed with a female Client with mental health challenges. Therapy Dogs provide companionship and emotional support to people, families and facilities where they work.

You will hear about some of our other Therapy Dogs and their Clients in this edition of Guide Dog Tales.

Manton, a yellow Labrador wearing a red collar

International Guide Dog Day

It was International Guide Dog Day on 26 April. This year, the theme was ‘Talk to the Handler’ where we encouraged the community to better understand the rights, and challenges of Guide Dog Handlers.

Research conducted over the last two years has shown that many Handlers have been put in danger because of the refusal of access.

A group of people in front of a banner at the International Guide Dog Day celebration

Talk to the Handler – if in doubt always ask a person using a Guide Dog first if they need help and announce you’re there. Using your voice is always better than using your hands.

Don’t distract the dog – Guide Dogs are highly trained, but they are dogs at the end of the day so avoid feeding or distracting them so they can focus on their skilled work.

Give them access – Guide Dogs in harnesses can go anywhere their Handler can go, it’s a legal right.

Give them space – physical space is very important, avoiding touching a Handler or a dog, or letting your dog greet them, so the Handler and their dog can work safely together.

Client Spotlight

We’d like to introduce you to Emily, an ambitious and kind young woman who is also a Client of Guide Dogs.

Emily is studying to be a youth worker so that she can make a difference in the community around her. With her Guide Dog Kathryn and the support from Guide Dogs, she has been able to achieve anything she sets her mind to.

Emily has an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa, which caused her eyesight to deteriorate as she progressed through high school. She started receiving support from Guide Dogs at eight years old, when introduced to a white cane. Emily found she didn’t enjoy a white cane as it did not suit her lifestyle and at 16 she was matched with Guide Dog Kathryn.

Kathryn has been Emily’s guide and companion through her transition from high school, throughout university, and moving out of home.

An occupational therapist works with a client in the kitchen chopping tomatoes.

Despite Kathryn’s help, Emily has still faced some challenges with her daily tasks due to her limited vision. As her vision will one day be completely gone, Emily decided to get on the front foot and work with Guide Dogs Occupational Therapist (OT) Krystle. Together, they worked on identifying specific challenges that Emily had around her home and developed some strategies to overcome them.

The two of them have been working on Emily’s cooking and knife skills, building on the skills that she had learnt as a child. Krystle has been working with Emily to use tactile dots in her kitchen and introduced more assistive technology and apps for her to use when doing her grocery shopping.

These small adjustments to her home will have a huge impact on her life now and in the future.

Your support of Guide Dogs helps ensure people like Emily receive the services they need and teach them skills they can utilise throughout their life.

I didn’t go anywhere I didn’t know before, but with Kathryn by my side now, I can go anywhere.

Emily
Quote by Emily

Community

We were thrilled to welcome the team from Telstra to our Kew Campus recently. The team took part in our corporate fundraising program, which is a two-hour workshop designed for corporate groups.  Participants learn all about our important work and also experience what it is like to live with low vision or blindness by completing several activities under blindfold before meeting one of our Clients, who shares their journey with Guide Dogs and the impact that their Guide Dog has had on their life. The group is then required to be creative and fundraise for Guide Dogs Victoria for the next month.

Thank you so much for taking part Team Telstra – we appreciate the support!

If you would like to learn more about our Corporate Fundraising Program, please contact Fiona Macmillan, Corporate and Community Fundraising Manager at fionam@guidedogsvictoria.com.au or 0447 657 215.

Are you passionate about animal welfare and looking for ways to help support our pups and Guide Dogs in training? Introducing our Vet Partner Program, a unique opportunity to contribute to the world-class veterinary carer for all Guide Dog puppies, from birth through training to their graduation as Guide Dogs.

Your gift will help fund essential veterinary care for multiple pups and Guide Dogs over the course of one year, covering cost’s of medications, regular health checks, veterinary consultations, diagnostic testing, routine surgeries, specialised and more complex surgeries.

For more information, please contact Tracey Pratt, Philanthropy Advisor on 0448 032 850 or traceyp@guidedogsvictoria.com.au.

Two Guide Dogs vet staff examine a yellow Labrador.

Therapy Dogs

Nessie is a Therapy Dog who loves nothing more than spending her days helping people. Nessie chose a different career path when she graduated from Guide Dogs. She now spends her days working with Speech Pathologist Eleanor, helping children. Today we take you through a day in the life of Nessie!

Black labrador Nessie sitting outside and smiling

7:30 am – Nessie wakes up to the sound of Eleanor’s alarm clock. With a bit of a stretch and yawn she is ready to start the day with breakfast and a walk.

8:30 am – Nessie arrives at the speech pathologist office with Eleanor. She greets everyone with a wagging tail and gets lots of pats.

9:00 am – Nessie’s first appointment of the day is with a little boy. He is four years old and has a speech delay. He’s a bit shy, but he loves dogs. Nessie sits with him during his therapy session, and he practices his speech by talking to her. Nessie is patient and attentive, and he feels comfortable opening up to her.

11:00 am – Nessie takes a well-deserved break, with a walk around the block, a nap and a snack!

1:00 pm – Nessie’s next appointment is with a little girl. She has autism and has difficulty communicating with others. Nessie’s calm and gentle presence helps her feel safe and comfortable and gives her the confidence to practice speaking and making eye contact.

3:00 pm – The workday is over, it’s time for play!

7:00 pm – Nessie settles in for the night, eats her well deserved dinner, she falls asleep with a content sigh, ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Nessie cuddling in between two people in a clinic.

Therapy Dog

At two-years-old, Ari has already faced significant challenges in his life, being born blind and losing his hearing due to bacterial meningitis. Despite the difficulties, his mother Jamie was determined to ensure that Ari never felt alone on his journey.

Ari was already receiving support from Katrina, an Early Childhood Orientation and Mobility Specialist at Guide Dogs. Knowing the power of companionship, Jamie put in an application with Guide Dogs to receive a Therapy Dog, and in January they were matched with Murphy!

Murphy and Ari formed an instant bond. From laying on the floor with Ari while his mum gets tasks done, to attending his many appointments, Murphy is there by his side, providing comfort and reassurance. Ari has started crawling and learning to explore the world through touch. Ari was overwhelmed by different textures and Murphy has helped desensitise him and will happily lay there while Ari gently explores with his hands.

Murphy a black Labrador lies down next to toddler Ari.

Murphy has fit into the family perfectly; he provides a source of love and support for everyone. He intuitively understands the needs of each family member and shares his affection generously. He has become a sort of therapist for Ari’s mum, Jamie. He is a comforting presence and provides emotional support during the numerous appointments that she must attend for Ari; greets her with a toy when she returns home and gets her out of the house for a walk at the end of the day.

Jamie lovingly describes Murphy as a big, affectionate goofball who loves big hugs. She explains, “as a family, we go through many serious challenges, but at the end of the day, we love to joke around and have fun. Murphy just fits into our dynamic perfectly, switching between serious when needed and being an adorable goofball at other times!” Jamie continues, “We’re so grateful to his Volunteer Puppy Raisers who did such an incredible job.”

Murphy is everything we didn’t know we needed.

Jamie, Ari’s mum
Quote by Jamie, Ari’s mum

Therapy Dogs like Murphy and Nessie offer stability and comfort in every situation.

Nessie, a black labrador, lying down on a rug

Eye Health

Glaucoma is a disease that affects the eyes and can lead to vision loss or blindness if left untreated. It is caused by damage to the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain and typically affects peripheral vision in its earlier stages.

While it is associated with increased pressure inside the eye, glaucoma also often occurs in eyes with ‘normal’ eye pressures.

There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type and develops gradually over time. It often has no symptoms in the early stages, so regular eye exams are important to detect it early. Angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, is less common but can develop suddenly with symptoms such as severe eye pain, headache, and blurry vision.

While anyone can develop open-angle glaucoma, certain factors increase the risk, including age, family history of glaucoma, high eye pressure, and certain medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, in the vast majority of cases treatment can help slow its progression and prevent further vision loss. First-line treatment options involve lowering the eye pressure with eye drops or laser. There is also a range of effective surgical treatments available if the first-line treatments are not working as well as required.

It’s important to remember that glaucoma is a chronic disease that requires ongoing management. Regular eye exams and early detection are crucial in managing the disease and preserving your vision and quality of life. Even if your vision seems fine, it’s critical to keep up with routine eye checks as recommended to detect any changes in your eye health.

If you have any concerns about your eye health or are at risk for glaucoma, speak to your local optometrist or ophthalmologist.

A picture of an outdoor boardwalk and people with the caption "regular vision". The same image is duplicated so that the outsides are obscured and only an inner circle is visible. Caption reads "advanced glaucoma vision"
Three images of a cat with varying levels of blurriness

Poem

I dream of removing my back pack,
throwing away my white cane, and holding
a hand instead of an arm.

I dream of walking freely, energetically,
and with a vigour that complements my mind.

I dream of swinging my arms, running,
jumping, and dancing.

To run up and down steps … then, to do it again!

Without the feeling of risks.

I dream of holding my head high, never
examining the terrain.

I dream of walking into a room and
seeing completeness.

I dream of my SPY holes disintegrating, so I may
see the panoramic picture come to life.

I dream of cinemascope screens, theatres,
and stages, before me, coming to life.

I dream of sliding my feet into my tappers and
tap dance until I drop.

I dream of flashing a neon light on my allocated
theatre seat … to avoid sitting on any man’s knee.

I dream of phrases eradicated. “It’s over there!”
“Look it’s staring at you!”

I dream of acceptance when my spy holes
close up and take in doses of inspiration
from Dorothy. My blind friend.

By June – Guide Dogs Client

Gift in Wills

Did you know that over half of Guide Dogs Victoria’s funding comes through gifts that our supporters have included in their Will? One-third of those gifts come as a surprise to us, from supporters who have never told us during their lifetime!

Growing up on a sheep and wheat farm, Geoff Chew’s two great loves in life were animals and doing anything ‘hands on’ and practical. With a trail of dogs, ducks, a pony and farm machinery to take care of in his early years, Geoff moved from a media career into home building and renovations and made many friends along the way.

However, one friend stood out above the rest; his best friend and much-loved yellow Labrador, Molly. Travelling to work sites together, pondering life on the verandah, cruising along rivers, Geoff and Molly were inseparable. It was the love, appreciation and deep connection he had formed with Molly, that triggered Geoff to include a gift in his Will to Guide Dogs. He could see that Molly’s calm and focused temperament, along with her natural friendliness, loyalty and intelligence were the key traits that would have made her a perfect Guide Dog (in another life!).

Geoff’s legacy has already gone a long way to helping people with blindness and low vision and to acknowledge his kindness and generosity, puppy Chewie was fondly named in his honour. Our only regret is not knowing of Geoff’s decision during his lifetime, as we would have loved to welcome him to our special Bequestor events, experiences and communications to see the impact such a wonderful gift can make.

If you have included a gift in your Will to Guide Dogs, please call Lily Downs at (03) 9372 4181 or email lilyd@guidedogs.com.au.

Geoff and yellow Labrador Molly sitting together outside

Guide Dog Federation

Recently representatives from Guide Dog Schools from all over the world came together to exchange and celebrate ideas at International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) Conference in Canada.

Guide Dogs Australia was lucky to win the Dorothy Award. The award is named after the renowned American dog breeder and philanthropist Dorothy Leib Harrison Wood Eustis, who founded The Seeing Eye, Inc, the world’s oldest existing Guide Dog school. The Dorothy Award recognises the IGDF Member organisation that has created the most memorable TV and/or social media advertisement/campaign.

The winning campaign, “Access All Areas,” was created in consultation with Guide Dog Handlers, our in-house Accessibility and Marketing Teams, our external digital agency partner, August, our PR agency Keep Left, Guide Dogs Ambassadors, 13Cabs, Uber, and the Department of Transport. The campaign aims to eliminate barriers for people with low vision or blindness and their Guide Dogs and encourage increased accessibility.

The idea for this campaign came about after a Client of Guide Dogs was denied access to a bus because of her Guide Dog.

Guide Dogs staff Gary, Elisha and Aaron standing in between two Canadian mounted police wearing the Red Serge uniform

Guide Dog Pet Insurance

Guide Dogs partner with many organisations to provide life changing services to people with low vision or blindness. One such valued partner is Greenstone Financial Services who provide the only pet insurance that helps support us, through Guide Dogs Pet Insurance.

When choosing Guide Dogs Pet Insurance, you are protecting your furry friend, and helping Guide Dogs continue our important work. And when you take out a policy, you can get one month free.1

Your pets are more than just animals, they’re part of the family. One way to protect them is with pet insurance, to help ease the cost of treatment and recovery for accidental injury and illness.

We all want to provide our pets with the best quality of life possible, but vet bills can be super pricey, often costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars. That’s why pet insurance is an important consideration – it can give you peace of mind knowing that your furry friend can get the care they need to recover from unexpected incidents.

An orange cat sitting down. Caption reads: Guide Dogs Pet Insurance.

Guide Dogs Pet Insurance is an excellent option to consider for those looking to protect their cats, dogs, or even Registered Guide Dogs®. Their insurance plans cover up to 85% of eligible vet bills2, so you can rest easy knowing your pet can have access to the best possible care.

Find out more about protecting your furry family members at www.guidedogsinsurance.org.au/vic or call us at 1300 907 276

1 One month free is applied as a discounted premium over the first year of cover. All quotes provided include this discount. Terms and conditions apply.
2 Pre-existing Conditions and certain illnesses are excluded. Maximum $20,000 per year. Terms, conditions, exclusions, benefit limits and sub-limits apply. Benefit Percentage varies based on the level of cover selected.
Guide Dogs Pet Insurance is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is distributed and promoted by Greenstone Financial Services Pty Ltd (GFS) ABN 53 128 692 884, AFSL 343079, and by its Authorised Representative (AR) Royal Guide Dogs Australia ABN 99 008 427 423 AR No 1259160 and is arranged and administered through PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at guidedogsinsurance.org.au.

Our Partners

  • Advance logo
  • Boehringer ingleheim
  • Coles logo
  • Express logo
  • flybuys logo.
  • Greenstone
  • IDEXX Laboratories
  • KONG logo
  • Petstock foundation
  • tpg logo
  • Ugly fish
  • woolworths group logo

You can change a life. Support Guide Dogs before June 30.

It’s estimated almost 70 Australians a day will be diagnosed with a severe vision condition by 2030. With your help, we will be able to provide the support to meet this growing need.