Eilish Wilkes never dreamed she would have her own freedom and independence until guide dog Loie came along.

Last August Loie became Eilish’s first guide dog, and in those seven months the pair have developed an amazing partnership.

“It feels like we’ve been together for so much longer, Loie and I are very rarely apart,” she says.

Loie has become her constant companion and changed the way Eilish, 19, gets on with her day to day tasks.

“She is a point of conversation everywhere I go; it has opened a lot of doors for me.”

“I had limited independence and mobility, I was unable to go anywhere without a sighted person. I felt very isolated and was confined to my home.”

Everyday they walk to different locations together, sometimes travelling on the bus or ferry.

Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Colin Christie worked with the pair and is pleased to see their partnership develop.

“Eilish is an enthusiastic handler who put in a lot of effort to improve her mobility. It was fantastic to witness the improvement in Eilish’s confidence and now there is no stopping her. It was a pleasure playing a small part within a big team at the Blind Foundation to help make this possible for Eilish and her family.”

Eilish is looking forward to having Loie by her side as she starts her first year at Massey University.

“I am undertaking a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English and a minor in rehabilitation studies,” says Eilish.

“Loie will give me the opportunity to independently get to and from university via public transport. She will help me to navigate my way around the university campus as well.”

“I can’t imagine my life without Loie. I am so grateful to all the people who made it possible for her to become my very first guide dog and my best friend.”