Macedon resident, Graeme McGowan is celebrating his 50th year of working with a Guide Dog and has loved every minute.
He received first Rep, his first Guide Dog, in 1968 when he was just 18 years old.
Graeme had just graduated from the Royal Victoria Institute for the Blind as a piano tuner, the profession he continues in today.
He needed to be able to travel but, totally blind, had a fear of open train platforms. A Guide Dog was the natural choice.
As a skilled piano tuner, Graeme quickly landed a job with Allans Music and needed to get to grips with the train station immediately.
He called Guide Dogs to let them know.
“I remember it so clearly. I went to the job interview on the Friday. Someone from Guide Dogs Victoria came to orientate me and Rep around the train station on the Monday and I was able to start work on the Tuesday.
“You can ring up Guide Dogs and they come. I have had wonderful service,” Graeme said.
After 50 years, Graeme continues to enjoy travelling freely, something he does a lot as the bulk of his work is house visits.
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“A Guide Dog will give you the freedom that you will never ever get with a cane.
“Kara (Graeme’s current Guide Dog) is able to find train doors easily, as well as the front door to a new client’s house. Being totally blind I rely on Kara – I need her to guide me.
“With a Guide Dog, your ability is kind of unlimited - you can do it if you want to. We even go bushwalking!”
Graeme continues to learn new routes and hone his skills with local Guide Dogs Victoria’s practitioner and Kyneton resident, Justin Marshall, who has himself been in the job for over 30 years.
Justin loves his job working with local residents. “It is wonderful to be part of the community, to see people I work with, living their lives independently and to the fullest extent,” Justin said.
Think you could foster a growing guide dog? Raising a puppy involves caring for a potential guide dog over 12 months. The goal is to nurture each puppy so they become well socialised, confident and focussed before training. Puppy raisers receive ongoing support and instructions throughout the foster period.