When it’s time for a Guide Dog to retire, it’s like losing your best friend.
Guide Dog Hank has been Helen’s best friend and closest companion for nearly a decade. But Helen knows her Hank can’t work forever.
“I still cry every time I think about it,” Helen confessed.
“I worried, ‘Am I doing the right thing? I don’t want to give him up.’ But he’s worked for most of his life and I really want him to have a rest as well.”
“It’s important to me that he has a good life – just like he’s given me.”
Helen lost her sight when she was in her late 50s after an eye operation went wrong.
It turned her whole world upside down. She couldn’t enjoy reading like she once had, pick out her own clothes or even keep the same job where she’d worked for 17 years.
“I hated it. I felt like I lost my independence and the ability to do all the things I loved in life.”
But when Helen found her perfect match with Hank, the impact he had in her life was immediate.
“Hank gave me so much more freedom,” Helen said.
“Because of him I was getting out so much more. I had the confidence I needed.
“And with a dog to consider too, I’d always think: ‘Come on let’s go out. Let’s go for a walk and look around while we’re in town’.”
But now 10 years on, Hank is ready to retire and enjoy his golden years.
Unsure of how long the wait might be to find her next perfect match, Helen made the decision to put her name down on the Guide Dog waiting list.
She needed to know that when the time came for Hank to retire, the team at Guide Dogs would have been actively training a new dog, just like Hank, to help fill his furry paws.
Some people can wait up to 18 months on this list, waiting for their next match to be found. For the team at Guide Dogs, we have to make sure it’s a good fit, so both person and dog work and live happily together for the next 10 years.
A couple of months ago, Helen received the call she’d both dreaded and been waiting for – a new Guide Dog match was ready for her to meet.
“I thought I’d have more time with Hank,” Helen admitted.
“I wasn’t ready to give him up – I don’t think I’d ever be ready. But when I got the call, I didn’t want to pass up my next perfect match.”
Although Helen was devastated about her partnership with Hank coming to an end, there was also a spark of hope for the future. And as it turned out, it was with a plucky young Guide Dog named ‘Sparky’!
And so the transition into retirement for Hank is underway, as Sparky finds his paws in his new role by Helen’s side.
“It’s funny, Sparky looks to Hank to see what he’s doing and copies him. Hank is a good teacher. It’s almost like he’s been part of Sparky’s training too!”
In 2024, we need to find 22 new Guide Dogs like Sparky just to replace retiring Guide Dogs like Hank. This is in addition to the new Guide Dogs that also need to be trained to meet the increasing need for Guide Dogs in our community, as the population ages.
Your gift today will help ensure there are enough dogs ready with the skills they need to excel as Guide Dogs and follow in the paw prints of life-changing companions like Hank.
A spark of hope for the future.
You can help ensure that Queenslanders like Helen never have to walk alone. Your kind donation today will help raise and train the next generation of Guide Dogs to be placed with those who need them in 2024.