Most people with a Guide Dog have faced more than their fair share of challenges. And then there are some, like Denise, who have had more than most.
She started losing her sight at 22 years old, following an operation on her jaw. Complications arised after a build-up of painful scar tissue and a second operation to remove it. Her left eye was permanently sewn shut – and she suffered 90% loss of vision in her right eye.
On top of losing her vision, Denise faced many traumatic, life-altering experiences. Born and raised in regional Western Australia, by a single mother, Denise grew up without a father, married young and suffered years of violence and mental abuse.
When her son – her only child – was born, he was “not far off from being stillborn”. Mark took his own life when he was only 22 years old.
“I’ve never liked myself. All my life I’ve been teased and taunted by others. I feel like sometimes I’m an actor. Putting on a brave face and holding it together so people don’t know that on the inside, I’m completely falling apart.”
Her vision impairment has created many additional challenges. At one point, she fell and hit her head and was unconscious for several minutes. Before she had Ruby, she used a white cane but always felt vulnerable. She was targeted by children playing cruel pranks; they would kick her cane, causing her to become disorientated.
Denise has struggled through so many dramatic life experiences but remains positive, keeping an optimistic view on life.
“That’s the way things go for me, but life isn’t all bad.”
At Guide Dogs WA, we want to see a world where everybody who needs a Guide Dog, has a Guide Dog. For that reason all of our Guide Dogs, Autism Assistance & Therapy Dogs are provided free of charge to people who are blind or vision impaired.
When Denise met Guide Dog Ruby for the first time, her world changed again; this time, for the better.
They had an immediate and special connection.
The yellow labrador puts people at ease and makes life so much easier.
“If I didn’t have Ruby, life would be very lonely. And very hard. I wouldn’t go out as much. She gives me the strength I need, and the confidence to enjoy my life. I just love her. I don’t have many friends, but I don’t let that get me down. The ones I do have are great. And I’m never lonely, because I have Ruby, who loves me for who I am. She doesn’t care if I’m sad, or unwell. I don’t have to pretend when I’m with her.”
She’s absolutely full of character. When her harness comes off, Ruby is playful, cuddly and very affectionate. Denise has not been teased or taunted since Ruby became part of her world.
Ruby will need to retire in a few years, but every donation goes towards training another Guide Dog, just like Ruby, who will be matched to someone who really needs them.
“I would love to meet the people who funded Ruby’s training,” Denise tells me. “I think about what I would say to them, and it’s actually really simple. It’s thank you – if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have Ruby. So I really mean it. Thankyou – it’s from my heart’.”
Thank you for reading Denise’s story, but please consider making a donation today to continue to support our Guide Dog program, here in WA.