Armstrong Creek’s Linda Blaik, 54, has been training with her new 16-month-old Seeing Eye Dog Kevy for three weeks. In the lead-up to International Day of People with Disability on December 3, Jena Carr speaks with Linda about the difference the black retriever has made in her life.
It has only been the third week of training, but Seeing Eye Dog Kevy is already making a big difference in Linda Blaik’s daily life.
The Armstrong Creek woman started losing her sight when she was seven due to Cone-rod Dystrophy (CORD), a group of eye disorders that cause vision loss that gets more severe over time.
Linda, 54, is now “totally blind” and has started to regain her confidence thanks to 16-month-old black retriever Kevy.
“We’re not solo or totally on our own yet but he’s made a difference already. He’s got me out of the house again and given me back a little bit of confidence, which doesn’t come easy,” she said.
“The one thing that has amazed me is that I live in the retirement village at Armstrong Green, and there are probably 120 letterboxes in the mail room, and he can pinpoint my letterbox.
“He can take me directly to my letterbox. Now, all these letterboxes look the same, but he can take me to my letterbox, and he was trained to do that which is absolutely magnificent.”
A dog is Linda’s “preferred mobility aid”, and she said Kevy could locate obstacles that she may not have found with a cane.
“Even walking around this morning (Monday, November 27), he was ducking, weaving and moving, and I knew there were obstacles there,” she said.
“One turned out to be a lady with a pram that pushed across in front of us, and then you’ve got the homeless that are sitting on the ground, and he’s going around them.
“They’re just those sorts of things that, if I had my cane, I may have hit the lady with the pram but with the fella sitting on the footpath, I probably would have fallen over him.”
Kevy is not Linda’s first assistance dog, with her last dog coming from Guide Dogs Victoria after COVID. However, Linda gave the dog back because it was not socialised enough.
Linda said she had been without a dog since then and wasn’t as mobile and independent as she used to be until Kevy from the Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs organisation came along.
“After Christmas, I’d like to volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Magpie Nest in Melbourne, and Kevy will take me to Melbourne on the train,” she said.
“Kevy and my relationship must be earned. I’ve got to put in as much as the dog and it doesn’t work if you don’t have a bond. Some of these bonds can take days, weeks, and even months.”
Linda said people should be mindful of their dogs by keeping them on a short lead and not letting them interfere with working dogs.
Kevy’s handler, training and maintenance costs are funded through Linda’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan.
Visit seda.visionaustralia.org or call 1800 422 007 for more information about Vision Australia’s Seeing Eye Dogs.
More information about NDIS services are available at ndis.gov.au or by calling 1800 800 110.