Gabby the Seeing Eye Dog and Mitzi
22 March 2017
For Mitzi Raaphorst, the decision to use a Seeing Eye Dog was made easier by the fact she is a confessed “dog person”.
Mitzi was born with low vision due to glaucoma and due to a combination of that condition and complications from corneal graft surgery, she now only has very limited vision out of one eye.
Up until her thirties, Mitzi had sufficient vision to that she didn’t require an aid such as a can or Seeing Eye Dog. After her vision began to worsen, the Vision Australia braille trainer became a cane user, but soon moved to using assistance animals.
The 50 year-old has now been paired with Gabby the Seeing Eye Dog and since April 2016, which she says has allowed her to keep a high level of mobility.
“When I was 40 I moved to using assistance dogs, before that I was a cane user. I’m a dog person, but also a dog really helps me solve some challenges and help me maintain a lot of my independence,” Mitzi said.
“For example if I go to a different train station a cane doesn’t help me find where the stairs are but I can tell Gabby to find them and she will. If I’m in a different building she can find the door for me,” she said.
While Gabby does allow Mitzi to maintain her independence, there are unfortunately still some challenges that come with having a Seeing Eye Dog.
“Sometimes we come across people or locations that don’t know how to act around Gabby or what she’s allowed to do.
“It’s something that can be annoying and I often explain to people what the right thing to do is or the what she’s allowed to do. Most of time people listen and understand, but unfortunately there are some people that don’t change their minds.”
Now that she’s had Gabby for close to a year, Mitzi said the pair have developed a strong sense of companionship.
“The dogs definitely become more than something that helps you, you really do develop a bond.
“It happens almost straight away as well. Quite quickly after we were put together you could tell it was happening/