Man’s best friend and eyes

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by Claire Allison

Retriever-Labrador cross Drew is Paul Glass’ eyes.

Without her, the Timaru man says, he just would not get out.

Beginning in his 40s, Mr Glass progressively lost his sight through the hereditary condition retinitis pigmentosa.

While he still had some vision, Mr Glass was able to get around using a cane, but when his eyesight went completely, he needed someone with him every time he wanted to go out.

He did not click with the first guide dog he was offered, three years ago, but then Drew came along.

“She was for another blind person, and he turned her down, so I got her, and she’s been a godsend ever since.

“They say it takes about six months to get to know your dog, but her and I clicked straight away, because she’s so easy to get along with.

“I trust her 100%. I’ve got to.”

Red Puppy appeal
Volunteers will take to the streets on March 22 and 23 to raise money for the Red Puppy appeal.
Blind Foundation chief executive Sandra Budd said money raised from the Red Puppy appeal helped Kiwis who were blind or had low vision achieve freedom, independence and confidence in everyday life.
“There are more than 30,000 people in New Zealand affected by blindness or low vision.
“Training guide dogs is one of the ways we help people who are blind or have low vision to live their life without limits.”
Last year’s appeal raised $800,000.
If you can spare a few hours to help fundraise for the next generation of guide dog puppies, you can register online or call 0800787-743 (0800PUPPIES).

Drew settled comfortably into Mr Glass’s Avenue Rd flat and life in Timaru.

“She’s my eyes. She’s got to think like a human, and see what a human sees. She has to think like us. I think they’re the most well-trained dog of the lot.”

Mr Glass is the only guide dog handler in Timaru. Another lives in Waimate, and there are about 200 people in the South Canterbury region who are registered for support from the Blind Foundation.

Being able to get out and about on his own has made a big difference to Mr Glass’s life, and walking with a guide dog is guaranteed to attract attention.

“People always stop to talk, they want to know if she is a guide dog.”

Some people ask if they can pat Drew, others don’t.

“Children are actually the best. They must teach them in school that it’s a working dog, leave her alone.”

Mr Glass said it was nice to have the company of a dog – he was a dog person and had always had dogs.

“She’s a very faithful sort of dog. Any time I’m sitting here listening to the radio or the cricket, she’ll come and sit in front of me.”

Drew is just as happy catching up on some sleep at home when Mr Glass heads out with a friend on a tandem cycle for a few hours’ riding.

Plans are afoot to ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff, aiming to raise enough funds to buy a decent sort of bike – one that doesn’t keep breaking down – and cover the costs of the trip.

“That’s one of my things I want to do.”

If that trip goes well, they are considering a trip across Australia.