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COVID-19 couldn’t stop Danae and ‘Lily’

July 31, 2020

With your generous support during the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to continue our crucial work in the community and Danae was able to begin her journey with new guide dog ‘Lily’.

There was a period of time at the beginning of coronavirus restrictions when Toowoomba mother-of-two Danae feared she might not be matched with a new guide dog.

Having lived her whole life with vision loss, Danae has had five guide dog companions during her life to help maintain her independence and do the sorts of daily activities that many of us take for granted.

“I was totally blind at birth,” Danae explained. “I had about 20 operations during the first 14 years of my life to give me the very limited vision I have now.

“I have about 5% tunnel vision in my right eye – sometimes. It wriggles and it is wobbly. That’s probably the best way to describe it. I can’t see much at all.”

As Danae’s fifth guide dog ‘Olive’ was nearing retirement, Danae was worried that with the introduction of restrictions due to the coronavirus, it could be months before she would begin training with a new guide dog.

Danae and her guide dog Lily.

Danae was worried she may lose her independence.

“I was concerned about how it would all pan out when the restrictions were put in place, because those restrictions meant I could not travel and complete the residential component of being matched with a new guide dog,” she explained.

“I would usually go down to the Guide Dogs centre at Bald Hills and live there for a couple of weeks where I don’t focus on anything else except bonding with the dog, and the two of us learning to work together.”

However, thanks to your generous support, instructors from Guide Dogs were able to continue working through the most challenging times, finding new, COVID-safe ways to continue this important training. This included Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Jodie travelling to Toowoomba and placing new guide dog ‘Lily’ in Danae’s home for the important two-week bonding period, instead of Danae travelling to Brisbane.

“The only difference was that I couldn’t invite Jodie in to my home and make her a cuppa, which is what I would usually do,” Danae laughed.

“But we were able to continue the training as usual – just 1.5m apart.” Danae said it was quite a surreal environment during training with all the restrictions in place.

Danae walking on the grass with guide dog Lily.

“The cafes and shops were closed when they are usually busy places, and the usually quiet parks were busier than ever. We did escalator training at the shopping centre, but because the shops were shut there were no lights or air conditioning. The traffic was also so different, which made for really interesting training – but Jodie was able to help me through all of that.”

The Guide Dogs team will continue training with Danae and all of the seven people who were matched with a guide dog since March. This will ensure teams are working well in their new environments as shops and cafes become busy again, and people move around their communities once more.

Four months after being matched with new guide dog ‘Lily’, Danae says she is extremely grateful to everyone who made a donation during the tough times, and for the Guide Dog Mobility Instructors’ dedication to their jobs.

Your support has allowed Danae to continue living a life full of freedom and independence.