Merran Thurley is celebrating fifty years of living with a Guide Dog by her side.
On July 16, 1968, Ms Thurley’s life was changed when she met her first Guide Dog, a Golden Retriever called Boyd.
“It was something that was so totally different in the life I was leading as a school girl,” she said.
“I was able to do a little bit more. I was going to technical college, and the dog could take me there.
“I could go down to the shop in the morning to get something for morning tea, and for lunch.
“It was great. It just made such a difference.”
Ms Thurley said Guide Dogs Tasmania had changed over the past few decades.
“Every time you come up for another dog, you have the situation where some of the way of working is changed,” she said.
“You’ll find after a while that some of the things you used to do are creeping back into your work. But, the dog now knows you well enough to know.
Ms Thurley said it was the “worst day of her life” when each dog hit retirement.
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“It’s so hard to have a dog and to say, ‘you can’t come anymore’. It’s over,” she said.
“The dogs go to retire, and you have to start again. Starting again means you have to go back to basics.
“Often when you’re out, you’ll think, ‘I wish I could just get back to where we were’. But, you do, you get there, it just takes a little while.”
Ms Thurley had been partnered with eight Guide Dogs. In January, she was partnered with a black Labrador called Jacob.
“He’s settled in. He was a challenge, like all of them are. They like to challenge you, and they want to see how far they can stretch it,” she said.
“But, it always works out every time.”
Coordinator of Guide Dog services Kim Ryan said it was a unique situation that Guide Dogs Tasmania was honoured to be a part of.
“It’s not every day that we get to celebrate such a huge achievement of 50 years of Guide Dog mobility with one client,” she said. “Such a special milestone deserves to be acknowledged.”
Ms Ryan said Guide Dogs Australia had celebrated 60 years in 2017, with Ms Thurley being involved with the not-for-profit since the early days.
“I love hearing about the stories of previous dogs, the quirky behaviours, the achievements and watching her face light up as she reminisces about each one,” she said.
Ms Thurley said it was hard to believe she had spent 50 years with Guide Dogs, but that she was thankful.
- For more information about Guide Dogs Tasmania at guidedogtas.com.au.