Penny and Guide Dog Robbie

Robbie takes the lead

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18 May, 2016
Penny and Guide Dog Robbie

Many of us look forward to retirement – but when it’s a Guide Dog who’s retiring, it can be daunting for a person whose very freedom depends on them.

Penny’s first Guide Dog, Zimba, changed her life enormously. Previously, she faced many daily struggles, but with Zimba by her side, she was able to rediscover her independence. Penny felt safe outside her home with Zimba. She was much more relaxed, especially in busy areas like her Northbridge home.


Penny first began losing her vision in her 20s to Usher Syndrome. This condition includes progressive deafness, as well as retinitis pigmentosa: an eye condition that deteriorated Penny’s vision over time.

“My life was being restricted – not just my vision. When I met Zimba, I was so excited! He is a fabulous dog.”

Zimba guided Penny with confidence and safety, acting as a natural extension to Penny’s own self – and sometimes proved to be a lifeline.

The pair worked smoothly together for years. As Zimba grew older and prepared to put his paws up full-time, it became clear to Penny that to keep the same level of life-changing independence, she would need another faithful guide like Zimba.

“If I was to be left without a Guide Dog, I would be devastated!”

At ten years old, Zimba was due to retire. Lucky for Penny, another beautiful black Labrador named Robbie was waiting in the wings.

Penny with Guide Dog Robbie

“Having a Guide Dog allows me to participate in the world outside my house. With Zimba, and now Robbie, I have the choice to live my life how I want to.”

Penny and Robbie have been bonding, getting to know each other’s behaviours and habits. It’s been an adjustment for Zimba, too.

“When I’m putting the harness on Robbie, Zimba just hangs around. He isn’t sad, just a little puzzled. It’s hard changing years and years of habit but he is loving just being a dog now.”

However, when Robbie’s harness comes off, she’s the first to join the fun: “The two hang out together and I worry about the advice Zimba might be giving to Robbie!”

You can help more Guide Dogs like Robbie to enable more people, like Penny, to continue living their lives to the fullest by donating today. You could also consider bringing a new Guide Dog puppy into the program by becoming a Puppy Partner.!

Since this article was published, sadly Zimba passed away. Our thoughts are with Penny at this time.

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