Laidley resident Mike Kingham and his recently graduated guide dog ‘Bob’.
Laidley resident Mike Kingham and his recently graduated guide dog ‘Bob’.

Top mate for struggling pensioner

WHEN Laidley pensioner Mike Kingham got a call from Guide Dogs Queensland to tell him they had found him a companion he couldn't have been happier.

Twenty years after first being diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, commonly known as tunnel vision, the 68-year-old's eyesight had deteriorated to the point he was struggling to get around.

Now, with 'Bob' in his life, everything has changed and Mike has his independence back and a new friend to boot.

'Bob' was one of 20 new guide dogs to graduate from Guide Dogs Qld headquarters on April 19 and an annual ceremony designed to coincide with International Guide Dog Day on April 25.

Mr Kingham said life had improved dramatically since 'Bob' had arrived.

"It really changes your life around," Mr Kingham said.

"It allows you to put your head up, shoulders back and look the world in the eye."

While 'Bob' remains the property of Guide Dogs Qld due to his $30,000 training price tag, Mr Kingham will now call 'Bob' his own until his mandatory retirement age of 10.

'Bob' was hand picked to support Mr Kingham by the professional trainers at Guide Dogs Queensland.

"When the trainer thinks a dog is up to speed the instructor will take the dogs out for a walk to get to know what their idiosyncrasies are," Mr Kingham said.

"Then they match them with people on the waiting list."

Guide dogs only work while harnessed so 'Bob' is all business out on the road and Mr Kingham said he shouldn't be fed or handled by passers-by.

It's a different story however when he is off the clock where he is like any other young dog, cheeky and mischievous.

The Laidley pensioner said the day before graduation he had removed his false teeth and put them on the side table before 'Bob' decided to try them on for size.

"He bit the bugger in two," Mr Kingham said.

Despite the teeth incident, the sunglasses, remote control and more than a few hankies, Mr Kingham wouldn't change a thing.



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