ERIC SEERY got his first guide dog Sundae nearly four years ago, and says it’s made huge improvements to his life.
He lives in Wellard and catches the train to work at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety in the city.
He has a small amount of low-detail peripheral vision remaining and was previously able to get to work by using a cane, but when he trialled a walk with a guide dog he says “it totally blew my mind”.
Sundae, a labrador retriever, has made the journeys a lot smoother and quicker and she can handle unexpected changes to the route.
“My eyes went bad when I was eight years old – a genetic condition – and I’ve gone through life maintaining a lot of my core independence.
“With the white cane I was good at getting around, but a lot of that was familiarity,” he tells us. “The cane is really good at finding obstacles, but then you’ve got to find your way around them… the dog avoids the obstacle.”
He says that’s important living in a city like Perth, where “there’s roadworks happening all over the place at various different times.
“Having Sundae has just helped me easily walk though those environments.”
Mr Seery’s also happy when people offer assistance, and having Sundae has led to more people coming up and asking if he needs a hand getting around particularly tricky obstacle setups.
“I’ve found that having Sundae, people are more freely offering help or just a heads up, ‘we’ve got a truck across the footpath, just wait 30 seconds,’ those sorts of things.
“I love it, I really appreciate it when someone says ‘how are you going mate, do you need a hand?’ And just that question is the most amazing thing, when that honest, genuine care comes out from a stranger.”
Sundae remembers other routes, even from a single journey a year ago – like a trip to the doctor.
She can also find things like doors, elevator buttons or chairs with a vocal command, and if Mr Seery needs to find a rubbish bin she’ll survey the street and bring him to one, most of the time.
“She’ll take me to something that’s usually a bin. Occasionally we’ll find a bore water box or something.”
And the dogs that end up being selected as guides love doing their jobs.
“She gets really proud,” he says. “She gets real pleasure out of doing the work she’s trained to do.”
Once the harness is off, she’s off duty, free to get pats and to act like an ordinary dog, running around the yard with Mr Seery’s other dog, playing with her squeaky toys (that she selects herself, since she can go into the shop) and trying to sneak into the laundry to eat the cat’s biscuits.
“When she’s at home she’s a member of the family… the main thing is I’m able to take her with me wherever I go,” and she gets days off when he’s heading to familiar places or in company and he can get around with a cane.
“I’ve started giving her a bit more of a break on weekends, because she’s started getting a bit tired by the end of the week.”
He’s also taken her back to a restaurant down in Rockingham owned by the people who raised Sundae as a puppy.
“To take her back to that family to say ‘thank you, here’s this beautiful dog that’s helping me out’, it was really a wonderful experience”.
THE yearly Central Park Plunge went down on the weekend with 300 participants abseiling 220m down the St Georges’ Terrace skyscraper for charities.
Sponsors pitched in cash for people to plunge for their chosen charities with about $570,000 raised.
Federal Perth Labor MP Patrick Gorman went over the side to raise money for Guide Dogs WA, netting them more than $3,000.
After surviving the stunt and being reunited with his son Leo on the ground, he was happy to report: “No by-election necessary.”
Stories by DAVID BELL