One of my earliest school memories was back around Grade 4 when we went on a school field trip to the South African Guide-Dog Association. It was a highlight of my early school years. I am a huge dog lover (up until the end of last year, I had five dogs I loved at home) so it was really great to see how much having a guide dog can change the lives of those who are unable to see. At the end of that trip, we all paid R5 to the association and were put onto their mailing list. receiving those newsletters became the best part of the month (What 10-year-old doesn’t love receiving post?)
Last week, however, was the first time I went back after all those years alongside the folks at Montecasino who are a major sponsor of their Starry Night fund-raising ball happening next month. On arrival, we were immediately given blindfolds before being escorted by their incredibly friendly staff to a field outside the main office. The lady escorting me made me very aware of the sun’s position – something many blind people take note of as they go on with their days. I’m not going to lie, it was quite hard walking down little hills and ramps without seeing what is going on for yourself so I definitely got a glimpse into the hassle many of blind people go through on a daily basis.
Once on the field, we were greeted by some puppies who have just arrived at the association to be trained and it was crazy seeing just how obedient they were at only 12 or so weeks! Next, after meeting some staff, we were taken aside to do some excercises completely blindfolded! In groups of four, we were given a rope and had to make a square. Sure, sounds easy but without sight, even that proved to be difficult. We had to use our voices to figure out where each person stood before finally getting it right. Then, we had to do a task many of us do daily – pouring ourselves a glass of water. Now, I’m a rather clumsy person as it is so I was a bit worried about pouring water out blindfolded. To feel exactly where the water rises to, a cork was put into the glass. When filling up the glass, the cork rises with the water and when you feel it on the top of your hand, you know the glass is full. Sure, this sounds so easy but its way harder than it looks. Let’s just say the table was drenched.
After that, we had the opportunity to walk down a street with a guide dog. Being completely blindfolded here as well, it was crazy how much I trusted the dog more than the person leading me to the field earlier that day. The dog goes through obstacles on the road, slows down for speed bumps and one really feels comfortable doing this. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I am so glad I got the chance to experience this.
On the 12th of September, the South African Guide Dogs Association hold their annual fund-raising ball at the Montecasino ballroom. Danny K will be providing the entertainment while comedian Ndumiso Lundi will ensure that guests keep laughing all night. A table of 12 costs only R12 000 and it’s for such a great cause. If you want to attend, contact LauraK@guidedog.org.za today!
It was interesting for me to hear that there is an in-depth application process for a guide dog but that the association does not discriminate against people with regards to their financial situations – as long as that person is able to look after and feed the dog. Working dog owners pay only R100 towards their board and lodging for a two-week stay at the association while they learn the ins and outs of owning a guide dog and how this will improve their lives and an extra R5 to purchase the dog.
The association does fantastic work and I can’t thank them enough for a fantastic day spent at their training facility. All proceeds from the ball will go to the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind.
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