Guide Dog Brogan, who is thought to be the most frequently flown Guide Dog in Australia, has ‘hung up his harness’ in retirement after 451 domestic flights alongside his handler, NSW businessman, James Bennett OAM.
This milestone highlights the crucial role Guide Dogs play in providing people with blindness and low vision the independence and safety to live the life they choose.
It also shines a light on Guide Dog Access Rights, which allow a person with their Guide Dog in harness to legally enter all public places and forms of public transport, taxis, rideshares and aircraft.
“My job as a Disability Services Auditor requires me to travel across the country frequently – averaging around 75 flights a year,” said Mr Bennett who has been completely blind since 2004, and received an Order of Australia Medal in 2017 for his services to the blind and low vision community. “With Brogan by my side, I have been able to continue to work and lead my life independently.”
“Brogan was highly trained by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and has never batted an eye about flying. Over the years we’ve visited all major Australian cities and airports, and many in between. He’s guided me through check in, security and boarding without issue – something I know can be very stressful for other people! Once on board, Brogan would lie down underneath my seat and enjoy a good snooze.
“I hope Brogan and I have acted as an example of how having a disability or vision impairment means you don’t have to stop working or having an active and busy lifestyle. I also hope that when other passengers have seen Brogan at work they understand how important and hard-working Guide Dogs are,” Mr Bennett said.
Brogan, who is now nine years old, was given a special farewell by Qantas, Mr Bennett’s preferred airline, on Tuesday 3 December, coinciding with International Day of People with Disability.
During his time in the air, Brogan has become a firm favourite of the airline’s staff, even being gifted his own Frequent Flyer medallion.
It costs Guide Dogs NSW/ACT $50,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog, which are then carefully matched with a handler based on their lifestyle and needs. Mr Bennett has recently been matched with his third Guide Dog, Kingsley, who was on hand at Brogan’s farewell, in a symbolic handing over of the harness.
While Kingsley will soon assume the jet-set lifestyle, Brogan will enjoy his retirement still living with Mr Bennett and his wife.