Guide Dogs and vet thanked
Justin Simpson describes his Guide Dog, Yarrin, as his "constant companion." For the past five years the faithful blond Lab has been by his side, giving him the independence and confidence to continue leading a very busy life.
However, in May last year, Justin received the distressing news that Yarrin had cancer. Without immediate treatment, he was told Yarrin only had weeks to live. Faced with major decisions, he's found the support of both Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and his local vet to be invaluable.
Justin, whose vision has gradually deteriorated due to a hereditary condition called retinitis pigmentosa, received Yarrin from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT at no cost in 2011. For 10 years before receiving Yarrin he used a long cane to get around.
Recently retired after 25 years as a public servant, Justin's most recent role was as an executive in the legal division for the Department of Human Services in Canberra. He currently maintains a busy life as an avid volunteer.
Yarrin is Justin's first Guide Dog and has changed his life dramatically.
"Receiving Yarrin was liberating. We bonded extremely quickly and worked well together straight away. In my day to day life it increased my confidence enormously," he said.
"I have a very active life and needed a Guide Dog that would work well in lots of different situations- from the office to the cricket field and even travelling regularly interstate. That's exactly what I got with Yarrin. He's a magnificent worker with a keen sense of adventure and curiosity. He's got a real spark."
After five years working together side by side, Justin said the diagnosis was a complete shock, and truly heartbreaking.
"Guide Dogs has been incredible. Not only have they given me great professional support with things such as treatment options, they've provided fantastic personal support as well. They've really gone above and beyond with their compassion and concern for Yarrin and me," he said.
"The same goes for the Kippax Veternary Hospital; I'm so appreciative of the kind and generous support they've provided us during this time."
Responding well to treatment, the spirited Lab has been able to stay by Justin's side for longer than expected.
Remaining optimistic about Yarrin but thinking realistically about the future, Justin has enquired about getting his second Guide Dog so that he can continue to maintain his independence when the time comes to retire Yarrin. He has recently attended a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT information session, and found a sense of reassurance in the process.
"It was very comforting to see others recognise how important your first Guide Dog is, while also acknowledging that there is life after your first Guide Dog... That the legacy carries on."
"Justin and Yarrin's case is a great example of why we need the continued support of the general public," said Guide Dogs NSW/ACT CEO, Dr Graeme White.
"Even though we would like to think that all Guide Dogs fulfil their full potential, just like any animal, Guide Dogs can fall ill at any age which can lead to an early retirement.
"As it takes over two years and costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train a single Guide Dog, these types of tragic incidents put pressure on the demand for more Guide Dogs in our community. A demand we would not be able to keep up with without the generous support of the public."
To help support the breeding, raising and training of new Guide Dogs for people like Justin, donate at www.guidedogs.com.au or call 1800 GUIDE DOGS.