Never in a month of Sundaes did Eric think his life could be transformed after living with a vision impairment since childhood. Guide Dog, Sundae, became part of his family in 2017 and she has given him his independence back – and a fresh outlook on life.
Eric has lived with Stargardt’s Disease since he was eight years old – a rare condition which causes progressive damage to the centre of the retina. To get a sense of what this is like, imagine wearing a pair of glasses, with a circular sticker over the middle of each the lenses, allowing only sight “around the edges”.
“My sight has slowly deteriorated over the years to the point where I can magically make a bus disappear if I look straight at it.”
People haven’t always realised Eric has a vision impairment and thought he was avoiding eye contact, perhaps even being rude, by looking over their shoulder in order to see them.
Things that most of us take for granted, such as maintaining relationships, finding a good job or caring for children or family members created a huge challenge for Eric.
Although Eric earned a place at University to study Science, finding his way around campus buildings and classrooms proved exceptionally difficult. With little support for people with disabilities, Eric became burnt out after two weeks of trying his hardest.
Eric’s daughter was born three months premature, weighing just 500grams (1.1lbs) and was in hospital, fighting for survival among drip lines and tubes for many weeks. Although nurses encouraged him to hold her hand, he was too frightened he might hurt her accidentally, through his lack of eyesight, and he held back. This led to feelings of isolation, anxiety and his self-esteem and confidence plummeted.
Taking the decision to seek support from Guide Dogs WA was a turning point for Eric – and he has not looked back since.
“When people see me with Sundae, they know that I’m blind. She takes some of the pressure off me which helps me relax more when I’m out and about. She takes away my anxiety. Makes everything easier for me.”
Since Eric and Sundae were matched together, they have formed a strong bond, which has helped to improve his mental health and wellbeing too. Recognising Guide Dogs can change lives, Eric now volunteers his time to raise funds for Guide Dogs WA, alongside his busy job.
Guide Dogs WA relies on the support of the community to fund our Guide Dog training program and help transform the lives of West Australians living with a disability. Currently there are 36 puppies at our Perth training centre, each at different stages of training, who will all go on to change someone’s life.
With each pup costing more than $48 a day, your donation will help to train more Guide Dogs, Autism Assistance Dogs or Companion Dogs for a child or adult with a disability or illness.
Make a difference to someone in WA by making a donation today.
Or, if you are interested in becoming a volunteer, please get in touch.