By Dan PEARCE – Contributor
Robyne Adlam has had a guide dog at her side since she was 18.
Now 33, she has recently completed training with her third canine, Purdy.
Adlam, was diagnosed with cancer before her first birthday. Her left eye was removed and replaced with a prosthetic. She still has three per cent vision in her left eye, which underwent radiation treatment.
“I do see colour. I explain it more like a lack of detail,” she said. “If things are quite out of place, even in my home, I will trip on them. But if I generally know the lay of the land, I do pretty good.”
While Adlam was growing up at home, she never felt the need for a guide dog. She could find her way around with the help of parents, friends or her white cane. It wasn’t until completing her first year of university, where she lived on campus, that she decided life could be much easier with a little help.
Adlam contacted BC Guide Dog Services (BCGDS), and in May 1997, she received two-year-old Candy.
“The difference between having my guide dog and not having her was huge. Being able to walk around campus by myself, go to class by myself, meet people at class instead of having them come meet me. It created a much broader sense of independence.”
When using a white cane, Adlam felt it created a social barrier and people didn’t know how to approach her.
“I never felt like I got good reception from people. They didn’t know what to say or how to help and it created more awkward situations for me,” she said.
“With a guide dog, people are much more open to getting into a conversation.”
Guide dogs are trained to find curbs, stairs, doors, and to walk between their owner and obstacles. They’re also trained to watch traffic, not traffic lights. When crossing the street, it’s up to the owner to cross safely. The dog is there in case the owner makes a mistake, or a driver makes a mistake such as running a red light.
“That happened to me once, with Ticky, and he literally saved my life,” Adlam said. “Only once, though. I don’t need to have it happen again.”
Adlam has developed strong bonds with her guide dogs, and she or family members have kept them as pets.
Ticky now lives at Adlam’s sister’s home nearby.
“I like that I still get to see him, that he’s still close. I don’t know how I would do if he wasn’t around.”
Candy lived with Adlam until she died.
“You spend every day putting your trust into this friend. She was even the ring bearer at my wedding,” Adlam said.
According to BCGDS, a healthy dog can work up to nine years before mandatory retirement.
Adlam received her third dog, Purdy, in March and he has had no problem fitting in with his new family. Adlam said her two-year-old daughter’s first words each morning are usually, “I go down and see Purdy.”
“They’re more than a pet and I don’t know if people understand that until they’ve actually put their trust in an animal,” she said.
Over 100 donors contributed about $15 a month to help raise Purdy.
BCGDS relies on donations so that clients like Adlam do not have to pay the $37,500 cost of producing a guide dog. Sponsors received photo and letter updates “from Purdy” throughout his two-year training period.
To learn more about how to sponsor a guide dog puppy, visit www.bcguidedog.com or call 1-877-940-4504.