LEADING THE WAY: Helen Willett said receiving Hank five years ago was life-changing.
LEADING THE WAY: Helen Willett said receiving Hank five years ago was life-changing.

How guide dogs are making a difference to local lives

AS TODAY is International Guide Dogs Day, Moore Park Beach resident Helen Willett hopes to shine a light on the difference the dogs can have on people's lives.

Ms Willett lost her vision about 20 years ago after an eye operation went wrong.

She said after losing her sight she lost the confidence and independence she once had, but since being given her Guide Dog, Hank, five years ago she regained her freedom.

"He has made a big difference to my life," Ms Willett said.

"He has built up my confidence which has given me more independence to get around, he makes me feel safe."

She said her life was very different five years prior.

"Before Hank I just had a white cane, I am sure some people are comfortable with that but I didn't want to step outside alone," she said.

"Now I am not out there alone, I have someone with me who guides me and takes me around obstacles."

Ms Willett said Hank also gave her the confidence to travel and visit her family in Newcastle more frequently.

"It has given me a best friend, we can do things together, he has made me a bit more adventurous, we have almost flown 100 flights on Qantas," she said.

Ms Willett said she felt forever indebted to Guide Dogs Queensland so volunteered at the Guide Dogs op shop once a week.

"I try to pay them back for giving me Hank, I am not on the NDIS and someone had to pay for him, the dogs are expensive to raise."

Guide Dogs Queensland CEO Michael Kightley said this May marked 60 years of the charity and he wanted to use International Guide Dog Day to celebrate how life-changing Guide Dogs are.

"It costs $50,000 to breed, raise, train, and match a Guide Dog, but the independence and confidence every Guide Dog gives to their handler is absolutely worth it," Mr Knightley said.



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