Laura’s had 5 guide dogs over the past 25 years. Mack is her current dog and they are inseparable.
“It’s like Mack is attached to my left arm, like he’s part of me,” says Laura, who works at Blind Low Vision NZ as a workflow coordinator.
She says that she could write books about each one of her 5 guide dogs.
“Every one has been completely different,” she says.
“Their work has been different. Their personalities have been different. Their home behaviour’s been different.”
But there’s one thing they’ve had in common; they’re all dark coloured. The first one was a chocolate brown lab, the next four black.
Why? Because Laura has a genetic eye condition that is aggravated by light. She has to wear sunglasses all the time, even inside.
“It sounds weird but when I have a light-coloured dog, the glare coming off the dog and bouncing back up to me means that when I’m outside I actually can’t see the dog,” Laura explained.
“I realise it’s not about seeing the dog, but it gets up under my eyes and it makes life even harder. I’ve done some test walks with a black spotted Dalmatian, a white poodle and a couple of quite light golden Labradors and it just doesn’t work.”
Laura finds that having a guide dog makes life so much easier. He gives her independence.
Every time they go out, she says, she takes the attitude that, “We’re going out. It doesn’t matter if we’re going to get wet and I won’t be able to hear anything for the rain. We’re gonna have fun. He’s gonna dodge everything.”
And Mack is especially good at getting Laura where she needs to go.
“You do notice when you’re a guide dog handler that the dog is finding the best line and that sort of thing, but you don’t always know exactly what obstacle he’s trying to avoid,” she says.
“I’ve had guide dog instructors walking behind me that have said, ‘That was amazing.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what was amazing; I’m just following my dog. I don’t know what he just did.’ He’s clearly doing that all day long because he loves me.”
Laura also says she owes much more than her gorgeous guide dogs to Blind Low Vision NZ.
“I wouldn’t have the ability to use a computer,” she says. “I wouldn’t be working. I wouldn’t have a career if it wasn’t for technology and the assistance of Blind Low Vision.”
And access to Talking Books has made her an avid reader.
She says, “The way I read my books now is on a portable device. That means I’m reading while I’m cooking. I’m reading while I’m ironing. I’m reading while I’m hanging out the washing. I’m reading while I’m falling asleep at night. I’m reading while I’m putting my face on and doing my teeth. I’m reading the whole time.”
It’s lucky she has 30,000 books to choose from!
20 years of raising funds for Blind Low Vision NZ
It’s said that you reap what you sow. For 20 years Laura spent time collecting donations for guide dogs.
“Usually it was a Friday, Saturday, Sunday that they would do the collection. I would often take the Friday off work and spend the whole day either at a Pak’n Save or outside Harvey Norman or whatever. I spent a lot of time collecting, hours at a time and the dogs would be exhausted and I’d have a sore face from smiling.”