Charlotte shines | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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29 February, 2016

Charlotte shines

Colleen with new Guide Dog Charlotte sitting on the grass beside her

Colleen Graham impressed by new Guide Dog's progress

Cowra resident Colleen Graham recently received a new Guide Dog, a blonde Labrador named Charlotte. With only two weeks of training together under their belt, Colleen is amazed at how quickly Charlotte has been learning.

Sixty-seven year old Colleen describes her current vision to family and friends as "like looking through a straw." Known as Retinitis Pigmentosa, the genetic eye condition has gradually been affecting her sight since her early thirties.

When Colleen first began noticing changes in her vision, she contacted Guide Dogs and began training with a long cane. In 2004, her life changed dramatically when she received her first Guide Dog, Neisha.

"At the time, I felt like a cane wasn't enough. When I received Neisha, I didn't have to depend on other people for the first time. If I wanted to go down the street or to the movies, I just went," she said.

After 11 years working together side by side, Colleen's first Guide Dog retired due to old age. Knowing the immeasurable kind of independence that Neisha brought to her life, Colleen was thrilled to hear that she was going to receive her second Guide Dog so quickly.

"I am so grateful for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. I received Charlotte so quickly after Neisha's retirement, which has been a relief as my vision continues to deteriorate," she said.

"With Charlotte by my side, I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things."

While the pair have only just begun their training together, Colleen has been very impressed with her new Guide Dog's progress.

"Charlotte already knows how to take me to the newsagents, doctors, vet, bank, chemist and Coles. It's amazing how much she's picked up already; she's a very quick learner."

After deciding to keep her retired Guide Dog as a pet, Colleen knew as soon as she met Charlotte that the two would get along.

"I knew right from the beginning that they would. Charlotte is such a sweet thing. They get along wonderfully," she said.

With more than a decade of experience as a Guide Dog handler, Colleen knows the importance of a Guide Dog's job all too well. As such, she would like to encourage the public to remember that it's important not to pat or district a Guide Dog.

"While I understand the temptation, I rely on my Guide Dog to get to places safely. She's working very hard to do that, so patting or distracting her could place us both at risk," she said.

More information on Guide Dog etiquette