MONIQUE FORD / STUFF
Brent Houston relies on a cane to get around and says getting to work each day is like navigating a maze.
For Brent Houston, getting to work each day is like navigating a new maze.
Houston had been steadily losing his sight since he was 17, due to a condition called retinitis pigmentosa
Now, aged 41, the Wellingtonian can only detect some light and rough shapes, and relies on a cane to get around.
He has been on the waitlist for a guide dog for two years.
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A recent move from Mt Cook to Tawa made the past month especially difficult.
It meant a new commute to learn, this one involving a train ride and a walk down a busy Wellington road with constantly changing construction work.
“Every day seems to be different, one day is a recycling day, another is a rubbish day, and another is a recycling day for another company, and everybody gets told to put their bins out on the footpath.”
The train itself was easy, with stations announced over a loud speaker, but the walk from the train station takes him down Jervois Quay, currently heavy with construction.
“It is reasonably static most of the time, but all it takes is them shifting a ramp off the the right a little bit and my mental map completely changes.”
While his cane was designed to help him navigate obstacles, it could be tiring.
“The cane is there to tell you when you’ve hit something, or that there is nothing you can impact, so you are constantly walking around thinking about obstacles.”
It could also be easy to accidentally tip wheelie bins, spilling their contents on the road.
Blind Low Vision New Zealand’s Red Puppy Appeal on Friday is to raise money to help train guide dogs.
Houston said he experienced how a guide dog could change his life when he did a trial with a dog in training.
Even with a semi-trained dog, he had freedom of movement to walk down streets he would usually avoid.
He was hoping to have a dog before winter – before his 5-month-old daughter, River, learns to walk.
His advice when it came to the Red Puppy Appeal?
“Definitely donate, these guys are not government funded and there is so much work which goes into training these dogs.”
Guide dog operations manager Wendy Mellberg Haecker said more than 50 people were on the waitlist, with an average wait time of just over a year.
“This of course varies according to individual circumstances and their requirements.”
Guide dogs could be life changing for those who needed them.
“We are fully funded by the generous public, and it’s a complicated business to produce guide dogs.”
* Red Puppy Appeal street collectors will be out withcollectioin bucketson Friday and Saturday or donated by visiting redpuppy.org.nz.”