Based on a survey of 2,400 respondents nationally, Guide Dogs was recognised for its industry-leading services, including providing guide dogs to Australians who are blind or vision impaired for over 60 years.
Dr Graeme White, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, thanked the public for their ongoing support and trust. “We’re humbled by and grateful for this level of public recognition in our vital work, which enables Australians who are blind or vision impaired to be more independent,” says Dr White.
“Vision loss is a challenging disability but our services, including guide dogs and long canes, allow people to realise it doesn’t have to be limiting.”
Dr White says the award is a reflection of the support from the charity’s donors and volunteers.
During the next 10 years it’s predicted that more than 2,000 guide dogs will need to be trained to keep up with growing demand from Australians who are blind or vision impaired, at a cost of more than $60 million. Dr White says it’s the public’s generosity that will make this possible.
The Australian READER’s DIGEST survey found that Australians trusted Guide Dogs for a range of reasons as highlighted by this selection of feedback from voters:
- ‘Speaking from experience Guide Dogs are extremely trustworthy. The staff are fantastic, training is impeccable. And their dogs are companions from heaven.’ – Female, 35-39, NSW
- ‘I think they undertake a very important service and the impact they make is immediately visible.’ – Male, 18-24, Queensland
- ‘We’ve all seen the results. They do a good job.’ – Female, 60-63, Victoria
- ‘Their work is evident in the community when you see guide dogs being trained and vision impaired people using them successfully.’ – Male, 25-29, South Australia
- ‘The job that they do, and the help and assistance they offer to vision impaired people is immense!’ – Female, 45-49, Western Australia
It’s really not surprising Guide Dogs have won this vote, you only have to look at the relationships between owner and guide dog as testament of this trusted partnership. Take for example, Canberra resident Jo Weir and her guide dog Wiley (pictured).
“I think the trust comes down to the fact I feel very safe with Wiley,” explains Jo. “I know he is going to look out for me and keep me safe and when I feel safe I feel confident. It’s that sense of safety and confidence in Wiley that enables me to be independent and that’s when the world literally opens up for you.”
Jo says that sense of safety and confidence allows her to take on more challenges.
“There are so many more options in my life – for example I can work because I have a guide dog. I can trust him to get me on a bus and to my destination safely.”
But trust, says Jo, is a two-way street.
“In some situations, my life literally depends on Wiley, but to be the effective team we are he also needs to trust me. I don’t have unrealistic expectations and I would never ask anything of him knowing it could jeopardise his health or safety. Wiley and I have a symbiotic relationship, I depend on him and he depends on me. As well as providing him with everything he needs to be happy and healthy I also support, encourage and reward him when we are out working together. It is a mutually beneficial partnership in which the trust goes both ways.”
She explains that trust comes from experience and learning from mistakes.
“If you second-guess your dog that’s when you will run into something. You learn that not trusting your dog is when things can go wrong. Trust is earned, it’s a really empowering feeling to have that trust with another living creature. I trust Wiley 100 per cent. I can trust he won’t obey a command if it’s not safe to do so. I can trust he’ll help me get to where I need to go.”
Jo’s description of her “unique” and “special” partnership with Wiley is the epitome of the bond that exists between a person and their guide dog.
“Having a guide dog is an incredibly enriching experience. It enables me to go places on my own, but Wiley is more than a mobility aid. The love and companionship I get from him also enriches my life because I have this wonderful companion – Wiley really is my best friend – it is such a special, unique bond and relationship.”
Wiley is the second guide dog that Jo has received from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, an organisation she believes is built on trust.
“It takes a village to create a guide dog from the breeding, to the puppy raisers and instructors. I need to trust in this process so I can be truly confident in my guide dog. Ultimately it is that trust that enables me to live a richer, more rewarding and independent life.”