For 82-year-old Arthur, Honnie is more than a Guide Dog and companion – she is truly a part of his family. And for Arthur, family is the most important thing in the world.
Arthur moved to Queensland as a young man, marrying his teenage sweetheart, Cheryl, and building an idyllic life on the Gold Coast with their two children, Melita and Scott. The family embraced the coastal life, becoming members of the local Surf Lifesaving Club, always surfing and spending time on the beach.
But the past few years have been hard on Arthur. He and his family have suffered some devastating losses.
Having had limited sight in his right eye since he was a teenager, Arthur had learned to adapt. But a few years ago, the vision in his left eye started rapidly deteriorating. He was finding everyday tasks much more challenging.
Knowing something wasn’t right, Arthur made the decision to seek specialist advice from an Ophthalmologist.
“I went into that appointment full of confidence, but at the end of it the doctor said: ‘Well Arthur, no more driving for you. Your eyesight just isn’t good enough. And I’m sorry to tell you mate, but it’s going to get worse. You’re going to lose your sight.”
“That was very difficult to hear,” Arthur recalls.
While trying to navigate a new life with deteriorating vision, Arthur experienced an even more devastating loss.
In 2018, his beloved wife of almost 50 years, Cheryl, passed away. Losing his life-long partner left him grief-stricken, as well as alone for the first time since he was a young man.
For his daughter Melita, seeing her dad find a way to live a new life alone, was heartbreaking.
“Losing mum was a really difficult time,” Melita said. “As his daughter, it was really hard knowing he was down here at the Coast by himself, because I was so worried about him being all alone.”
After living a life of independence with his family, Arthur was suddenly dealing with life on his own, losing the ability to drive and knowing in a few short years his vision could be completely gone.
Living alone and finding it increasingly difficult to get out and about, Arthur started to lack the motivation to make it much further than his front door. Once so active in his local community, Arthur became isolated, adding to the pain of his loss and his newfound loneliness.
Something needed to change for Arthur, to bring him back to his usual vibrant self.
It was then that despair turned to hope.
After searching for assistance in various places, he arrived at Guide Dogs in July 2018, in the hopes of finding the support he was seeking. It was here that Arthur was able to learn the strategies he needed to work through his grief and better cope with his vision loss. He made new friends who understood his individual journey and who would become important support people in his life.
Then he was told some news that he wasn’t expecting to hear.
“After a few months into getting help from Guide Dogs, I was told they might be able to match me with a Guide Dog.
“I wasn’t expecting it, an old bloke like me. As soon as I heard the idea, I just thought about how phenomenal it would be. They must have seen how excited I was, because they said that there was a lot involved in matching people with Guide Dogs, and I might be in for a long wait.”
“I know they told me to hold my horses and not get my hopes up, but as I left, I was over the moon,” Arthur said with a warm smile.
The matching process between a person with vision loss and their Guide Dog is extremely important.
So many things have to be considered, right down to walking speed, energy levels and even the personality of the dog. And this is before the two even meet!
Exactly two years after Arthur first came to Guide Dogs for support, he was given the news that would change his life – they had found his perfect Guide Dog.
“I remember I picked up the phone and it was a call from Guide Dogs and they said they think they had a dog for me,” Arthur recalled, “I couldn’t wait – I phoned my daughter Melita immediately. I was rapt!”
For Melita, the lift in spirits she noticed in her Dad, with new Guide Dog Honnie by his side, was almost immediate. “When he got Honnie, it was such a huge change,” Melita said.
“Even now you can see it in the way Dad holds himself with her – his shoulders are back, he’s confident – it’s like he has a new lease on life.”
Arthur found that old spark of his confidence within Honnie on their first day together.
“We were in a shopping centre and I could see this person who I thought was going to turn left, so I tried to take us right. But Honnie knew better than I did. She stood her ground and avoided a collision. I thought, ‘gee you really are an intelligent dog’,” Arthur said.
From that moment on, their bond has continued to deepen.
Arthur even notices attributes of Honnie that remind him of his late wife, Cheryl, who he affectionately called ‘Honey’ for their six decades together.
“A few months after I got Honnie, I was out to dinner with friends. We got there at 6:30pm and it was a five-course meal. She behaved beautifully and then at about 9pm she stood up, looked me straight in the eye as if to say, ‘righto, you’ve had enough now Arthur, time to go home’.
“Everyone burst out laughing because my wife used to give me the same look and say, ‘time to go’. So, I think she’s reincarnated some of my wife’s thoughts.”
Thanks to your support, Arthur now has his perfect match and best friend by his side.
There are 27 more people like Arthur waiting for that life-changing phone call to help pull them out of isolation and give them the chance to live life on their terms.
Despite all the challenges Arthur was able to overcome, earlier this year, he and his family faced their most crushing loss.
In January, while they were all holidaying together in Noosa, the unthinkable happened.
“My son Scott had come to pick me up from Mermaid Beach to take me to Noosa for a family holiday,” Arthur recalled.
“When we got there, Scott unpacked the car and then went to get some groceries with his wife and the kids. The next thing I heard was that he was in Caloundra Hospital in an induced coma.”
Completely out of the blue, Scott had suffered an aneurysm. He passed away the next day, at just 49 years of age.
This sudden, devastating loss left the family broken.
In this moment of grief, and to everyone’s surprise, it was Honnie who knew what to do.
“As soon as Honnie saw any tears, she would walk over and just put her head on your knee. She had such a soothing effect on us all.”
For Melita, she’s not sure what they would have done without Honnie’s care in that moment.
“Losing my brother was incredibly difficult,” she said. “But having Honnie there made all the difference in the world. She gave us so much support and strength when we were all together. She was just amazing – she was our light in that very hard time.”
Honnie has made a bigger impact on Arthur and his family then they could ever have imagined.
Arthur and Honnie have been through a lot in their short couple of years together and you can tell by watching them, just how much they adore each other.
“She wakes me up with a cold nose on the cheek every morning at 6am and we go on our daily walks to the beach. It’s because of her that I’m active and moving again.
“She’s been terrific and she has really given me a lot more confidence in walking. She’s improved my life so much and I absolutely treasure her.”
“She has given me a new lease on life.”
Daughter Melita also thinks Honnie has added years to her dad’s life.
“He’s always had good mental and physical health, but it’s just improved so greatly because he has the confidence to get outside again, thanks to Honnie.
“As a daughter, I can relax a little when I’m not here, because I know he has companionship and something to wake up for. Honnie is his spark in the day.”
At a cost of over $50,000 to raise and train each Guide Dog, it’s the continued generosity of supporters like you that make it possible to give that spark back to someone who needs it most.
The strategies involved in matching a Guide Dog with their handler are so much more than just the ‘luck of the draw’. It involves a lot of careful consideration on what is best for each person and their unique lifestyle.
It’s not only their physical attributes that matter, but how this new companion can positively impact the mental health of the person and their family, just like Honnie has with Arthur.
There are currently 27 Queenslanders on the waiting list for a Guide Dog.
With more than 90% of our funding coming from people just like you, your gift can help create more perfect partnerships and add a spark to the lives of Queenslanders with low vision and blindness.
Despite Arthur’s recent challenges and deteriorating vision, he maintains an active and independent lifestyle.
“With Honnie by my side, honestly I can’t think of much I can’t do.”
“My main challenge,” he says with a laugh, “is when people like my daughter Melita visit and move things around on me.
“For example, I was trying to find the spaghetti jar recently and couldn’t find it anywhere. Little did I know, she’d emptied it out and put something else in it! Then I had to go on a mission to find my parmesan cheese, which was nowhere to be found either.
“So I guess some things are still difficult, like making a spaghetti dinner!” Arthur laughs.
As for his plans for the future? Well, this summer, Arthur plans to take up surfing again.
“Honnie has given me so much confidence that I’ve decided that before this year is through, I’m going to get back out into the ocean with my daughter, Melita,” Arthur said.
“I’m only 82 so I’ve still got a few years of surfing left in me!”
It’s inspiring to see Arthur’s incredible attitude and the impact his partnership with Honnie has had on his life and his family. With your help, we can change more lives for the better, so they too can experience the freedom, joy, and independence that a Guide Dog can bring.
It’s thanks to you
Arthur and Honnie make an incredible team. Together, they have been able to process devastating grief, unexpected challenges and so much more.
Arthur knows this wouldn’t have been possible without supporters like you.
“Look what you’ve done for me,” he said. “Look at Honnie. She’s absolutely phenomenal. They got my match with her 100% accurate – 110% accurate. I couldn’t have asked for a better dog. And it’s thanks to you.”
With your help today, we can match even more Queenslanders with a life-changing Guide Dog and invaluable companion.
Thank you so much for your unwavering support of Guide Dogs.
Help us find the perfect match for 27 Queenslanders just like Arthur
Make a donation
Thank you for your generous support!