Supporting people with disabilities and autism, SA Guide Dogs Association is changing lives for the better with the help of human’s most trusted companion.
Johannes Heyns was recently paired with Doug — his first Guide Dog. He’s been blind for 32 years since he was diagnosed with a cancer called Retinoblastoma when he was only three years old.
Working as a switchboard operator at the Wynberg Magistrates Court in Cape Town, Johannes first experienced what a difference a guide dog could make — while living with a housemate who is also a Guide Dog owner.
After careful consideration, he decided to apply for his own with SA Guide Dogs Association — whose mission is to enhance the lives of visually and physically impaired people and children with autism by providing guide dogs, service dogs, autism support dogs, and orientation and mobility.
“I filled out the application form without big expectations.” says Johannes. “But the first time I walked with Doug I felt something I never expected! It was such a different experience to what I was used to. It was strange to put my trust in a dog, but once I learnt to trust him, we began to work very well together.”
Today, Doug accompanies him to work on a daily commute that comprises a bus trip and short walk.
Johannes recently bought his own house which meant that Doug had to learn new routes to lead him to work and to the local shops. “Doug learnt the new routes with great enthusiasm, he is a fast learner,“ says Guide-Dog Mobility Instructor, Cheryl Robertson.
When Doug isn’t working he’s a fun-loving, energetic dog who loves to play with his toys and insists on lots of cuddles. He doesn’t often leave Johannes’s side and is always happiest when they’re walking together.
SA Guide-Dogs Association trains guide dogs for the blind, as well as service dogs for people who are physically disabled and autism support dogs for children on the low autism spectrum. All funds raised go towards training working dogs, and the costs of training equipment, harnesses, service dog jackets, medical care and much more.