Tegan has been desperate for a Guide Dog for as long as she can remember. For Tegan, who is nearly 14 years old, a Guide Dog represents so much more than a loyal companion providing practical assistance while out and about.
“When I get my Guide Dog, I know my life will change incredibly: that’s because I will be able to experience independence for the first time.”
Tegan has never experienced independence – because she has never seen the world around her.
Tegan has Leber Congenital Amaurosis, (link opens in a new window) a rare condition in which the retinas don’t function: she was born blind. When her mum Kathryn heard the diagnosis for the first time, she was devastated. She feared for the challenges that lay ahead for her precious daughter. And while Tegan has faced many challenges in her early life, this only worsened when she started school.
Because of her lack of sight, she was excluded from participating in PE classes and team sports. As difficult as that was to cope with, Tegan was most upset that she was excluded from friendships.
Kathryn explains the unthinkable:
“The parents of some of her classmates didn’t want Tegan to go over to their house to play,” she remembers. “It was too hard or too scary for them to supervise a blind child. Some of the parents didn’t want Tegan being friends with their kids, and they made this very clear to me.”
Incredibly, some of the parents even wanted Tegan removed from the classroom, as they felt she took up too much of the teacher’s time.
Tegan hasn’t let that horrible experience keep her down, and now in High School, things are improving tremendously. Her studies are going so well that she has been placed in an accelerated learning class, and she has a small but close-knit group of friends.
Despite her obvious physical challenges, she has excelled at vaulting: a combination of dance and gymnastics on horseback. She has already won two state championships for the solo event, and later this year, she will compete in the national championships.
While she is proud of her achievements to date, the one thing Tegan dreams of achieving most is independence.
Tegan tells us if she had a Guide Dog, she would feel happy and free. She would be independent, like big sister Chloe, and she could go out with her friends.
“It would be a completely different life…an exciting life!” she says, with conviction.
She can’t wait to meet ‘her’ Guide Dog…but she knows she must be patient. She will be eligible when she turns 16 – in two years. It takes the same amount of time to train a Guide Dog, and Tegan knows that it’ll be worth the wait.
Will you help us to train a Guide Dog for Tegan and other West Australians like her?
Update: Tegan’s dream finally came true!