‘Life changing’: How guide dog transformed Bundy man’s life
FIFTEEN four-legged graduates have received their well-deserved medallions, after changing the lives of people with vision loss.
Among the pack of the fully-accredited guide dogs was Utah, who has made the world of difference to a Bundaberg man.
Graeme Raines and his second guide dog Utah graduated on Friday, with the pet owner saying his trusty comrade has changed his world for the better.
"A guide dog makes such a big difference to your life (and) without Utah I don't know what I would do," Mr Raines said.
"Having a guide dog is life-changing … you have a new-found independence because it is just so much easier to get out and about.
"You notice it from the very first walk with your guide dog - you just feel so much more relaxed and comfortable."
Taking place every year, the graduation ceremony is a time to celebrate the commitment and achievement of Queenslanders living with vision loss and blindness working to retain or regain freedom, confidence and independence.
But this year's event was more important than ever, after Guide Dogs Queensland also celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Chief executive officer of Guide Dogs Queensland Michael Kightley said while their iconic guide dogs are what they are best known for, the organisation had been supporting people with vision loss with a range of support services since the very beginning.
"This work can start with a baby who is born with a vision condition, or it could be helping a person later in life as their vision changes - and everything in between," he said.
"This year we will be recognising 34 Queenslanders who have completed training with a guide dog, an electronic travel aid, or a white cane.
"These life-changing dogs have completed two years of extensive training to ensure they are the perfect partner and companion for someone living with vision loss or blindness."
Thanking the community for their long-term support over the last six decades, Mr Kightley said the generosity of Queenslanders had continued even throughout the challenges presented by COVID-19.
"It was donations from the community, back when our currency was pounds, that helped the first Queenslanders be paired with life-changing guide dogs," he said.
"A lot has changed over the past 60 years, but the support of the Queensland community has never wavered (and) the incredible Queensland spirit of helping others is still so important to Guide Dogs today, with more than 90% of our funding coming from the community.
"For every dollar coin put in a collection dog over the years, every item of merchandise bought at a fundraising stall and every donation made over the past 60 years, more and more Queenslanders have been given the life-changing gift of a guide dog to be by their side."
Doggy graduates received certificates and medallions during the ceremony on Friday, from the Governor of Queensland Paul de Jersey AC, before embarking on their journey as fully-trained guide dogs.