Our Stories

Cheryl and Joanie – paw-fect together

16 February 2024

Guide Dogs

A woman with grey hair sitting on a park bench. There is a colourful mosaic wall in the background. Her yellow Labrador guide dog is wearing a harness and is sitting by her feet. The image is decorated with illustrations of blue flowers and a slice of watermelon.

Your support gave Cheryl the independence she needed

When Cheryl looks back at life before her guide dogs, it’s now clear how much she needed the support, comfort and security she enjoys every day, thanks to your kindness.

Cheryl has a gradual retinal disease called Coats disease, and her vision began deteriorating significantly in the early 90s. Today she is blind in one eye, with low vision in the other. Her sight will continue to worsen over time.

“I was shocked at the start, but I just got on with things. I had to quit a job I loved, as a news editor, but my husband and I set up a business. I then went back to study, and now work as a ministerial writer.

“Blind Low Vision NZ helped me learn Braille, and training on using a white cane, to get back to work, which has given me great satisfaction.”

But Cheryl wanted to be able to walk faster, and feel more confident – so she enquired about a guide dog. She was first matched with Pebbles, and more recently, with Joanie.

“Joanie is such a loyal companion, and she really helps me live my life the way I want. Having a guide dog has made my condition more visible. Now if I’m looking a bit lost, people are more willing to come up and say, ‘Do you need a hand?’”

Cheryl says she was always a cat person, but now she has a guide dog in her life, she is definitely a dog person! We are so grateful that you are a ‘dog person’ too, dedicated to training more amazing guide dogs like Joanie and helping people like Cheryl.

Cheryl said she always had poor eyesight – but was totally shocked when a doctor told her she had macular degeneration. “At the time I was told there was nothing that could be done, so after getting over the shock I just got on with life,” she said. Then a few years later, Cheryl was diagnosed with Coats disease, a rare congenital eye disorder.

After adapting to life with low vision the best way she could, 10 years ago, Cheryl decided it was time to try a guide dog. This former cat lover is now a dog lover!

Cheryl’s first guide dog was black Labrador, Pebbles, and now she has beautiful golden girl, Joanie. She says both dogs have given her a whole new way of life. “When you’re out and about, having a guide dog puts your mind at ease. It’s a real feeling of security, like having a friend with you.

“Joanie is such a big part of my life, and I am so grateful to have her. Thank you to all the generous donors!”


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