A few weeks back on this blog I wrote: “imagine losing your sight”. It’s something few of us can imagine – but it is something that Capetonian Lois Strachan has had to live through. I have known Lois for years and have always been amazed at her independence, some of which can be attributed to having a guide dog supplied by our charity auction beneficiaries, the South African Guide-Dog Association for the Blind (SAGA). SAGA trains and provides guide and service dogs as well as training the dogs’ new owners in how to look after them. Despite the fact that it costs R80,000 to train each dog and the new owner only makes a donation of R105, they receive no government subsidy for their work and rely on donations such as the one we will be making after the auction. Lois very kindly agreed to a short interview about her experiences with SAGA in the hope that this will give you a clearer view of the work that SAGA does and how they change lives every day. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Lois Strachan and I became blind at the age of 21, as a result of Type 1 diabetes. I currently work as an administrator for a marine engineering consultancy. I am an experienced speaker, facilitator and storyteller. I have aso also written 4 children’s books about a blind mouse, Missy Mouse, who uses her other senses to engage with the world around her. The first book, Missy Mouse Goes to the Park, is now available on Amazon.com. I am an avid reader, enjoy music, cooking, and spending time with family and friends. I am married and live in Cape Town. I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Were you born blind or did you become blind later?
I became blind at age 21, as a result of Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes.
3. Please tell us about your experience with SA Guide Dogs – how and when did you contact them – what was the process for getting a dog?
I first made contact with the South African guidedogs Association for the Blind in 1996, when I moved into a home of my own and started working. My mobility skills were assessed to make sure I would be able to work effectively with a guidedog and I went on course a few months later and was matched with my first dog. During the 3 week training course, SAGA taught me how to work with the dog, how to look after the dog and how to learn additional routes to new places.
4. Tell us about your dog(s).
I’ve been fortunate to work with 2 wonderful guidedogs over the past 17 years – Leila, who was a black Labrador retriever, and Eccles, who is a black Labrador cross retriever. Both have their own unique personalities and have had different strengths and ways of working, although they both have the same basic training and abilities. OH, and my first dog, Leila, is almost singlehandedly responsible for my meeting my husband, Craig.
5. How has having a guide dog changed your life?
Having a guide dog as given me a degree of independence I would never have had if not for her – the ability to get around without worrying about walking into things, encountering obstacles and the security of knowing I will have advance warning of steps in front of me. An additional boon, which anyone with a beloved family dog will know, is the pleasure of having a companion always at one’s side.
6. Any words of advice to others debating whether or not to get a guide or assistance dog?
The best advice I can think of offering someone interested in applying for a guide dog is just to make contact with the South African Guide-dog Association. They are a great group of people who will be able to answer any questions that people may have. Also for anyone thinking of volunteering to help SAGA – just give them a call on 0860 100 922 or contact them via their website.
After the Indaba there will be a charity and 100% of the proceeds from this auction will go to SAGA. Please bring your wallets and bid high – this is such a worthy cause. We’d also like to thank ALL the sponsors for their generous support in donating items for this auction – we truly could not do it without you.