Three months ago, Salma Abdo welcomed her second Guide Dog, Jacie, into her home and quickly developed 100 per cent trust in the beautiful blonde Labrador’s ability to assist her to safely and independently go wherever she wants.
The unique bond between a handler and Guide Dog is characterised by trust, a word that Guide Dogs Australia member organisations are proud to be associated with in the wider community after being named Australia’s Most Trusted Charity Brand in the annual Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brand Poll for the fourth year in a row.
Guide Dogs Australia spokesperson and CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, Dr Graeme White, said receiving the award was truly humbling.
“We are extremely grateful for this level of public recognition of our vital work,” Dr White said.
“Guide Dogs Australia member organisations are working to help people who are blind or vision impaired realise that their freedom of movement doesn’t need to be limited,” he said.
“Each highly skilled Guide Dog has undergone almost two years of intensive training including how to navigate obstacles, travel on public transport, find landmarks such as bus-stops, and cross the road safely, before graduating.”
“They are amazing and grant a level of independence that takes enormous pressure off carers and parents, and allows the user to achieve their goals in life, whether that be participating in their local community, accessing further education or finding employment.”
For Salma, who has been vision impaired since birth due to glaucoma and cataracts and became legally blind when she was 14-years-old, Guide Dogs has played a powerful and positive role in her life.
The organisation initially taught her how to use a long cane, before she received her first Guide Dog, Clare in 2009.
“The name Guide Dogs simply means independence to me,” Salma said. “They have supported me throughout my life to allow me to have freedom. I don’t need to rely on anyone to take me where I need to go and that is an amazing feeling.”
Salma said when she received Clare she gained so much confidence and Jacie was now following perfectly in her footsteps.
“Jacie is doing wonderfully and I bonded with her immediately,” Salma said. “She moves me away from obstacles, stops at the kerb and travels on trains and buses with ease. Having a Guide Dog is like having my own car in that I can go out whenever I want. In Jacie’s case she is very special, so she would be the Rolls Royce of vehicles!”
“We work so wonderfully together as a team.”
Each Guide Dog, which costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train, is provided to a person who is blind or vision impaired at no cost.
“As we receive less than 10 per cent of our funding needs from the government, we are reliant on the generosity of the community to continue our important work,” Dr White said.
“Statistics show that every day, 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss. With our ageing population the work of Guide Dogs Australia member organisations will touch the lives of so many more as they seek support to build their confidence, mobility and independence,” he said.
“We are so humbled to once again be named the Most Trusted Charity Brand,” Dr White added. “On behalf of Guide Dogs Australia member organisations, I would like to thank our many loyal supporters as without them our mission to enhance the independence and safe mobility of people who are blind or vision impaired could not be achieved. Such overwhelming support is the reason why we exist.”