Eddie Rimmer and Yara - Adult guide dogs service

From strength to strength

“Yara hasn’t just changed my life, she has changed my wife’s to.” - Eddie Rimmer.

Eddie Rimmer and YaraTwo year old Yara is a remarkable guide dog. She’s a life changer – but then all guide dogs are. However, Yara has pulled off the same trick twice in the same household in just four months.

Yellow Labrador Yara was matched with Milton Keynes based Eddie Rimmer in August 2013 and immediately the difference she’d make was clear.

“There was an immediate bond” explained Eddie. “On our very first walk as part of the matching visit, we were so comfortable together, there was no stress or anxiety, just that amazing trust that a guide dog instils in everyone with which they work.

“In fact our first walk went so well - all three of us were enjoying it so much that we got lost and we were out for well over an hour,” he added.

Eddie lost his sight as a result of diabetic retinopathy, caused by type one diabetes. He says: “when the optician told me in the early 90s I didn’t foresee its impacts on my life.”

At the time he worked as an electro mechanical fitter for British Rail in London, however due to safety concerns he was no longer able to work trackside. A few years later when working as a sales and marketing manager he became increasingly aware of his loss of peripheral vision when driving and his licence was subsequently revoked.

After not getting the support needed Eddie decided he could no longer carry out his job. He continues: “I quickly became depressed and isolated, not helped by a number of unsuccessful eye operations for diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.”

So a radical solution was required and - with Eddie able to take his railway pension at 50 - Eddie and his wife Allison decided to effectively ‘retire’ to Turkey. Allison takes up the story.

“Until 2012, when we decided to move to Milton Keynes, we lived in a quiet rural area of Turkey where Eddie was used to getting out and about without having to worry about traffic and so on. This all changed in Milton Keynes as he didn’t at that stage have any long cane skills; he couldn’t even get out to the local shops.

“Not long after we got back I had to re-train to get back into my former line of work in healthcare which left Eddie at home during the day - causing Eddie to become isolated and depressed again - which was stressful for both of us as I hated leaving him on his own,”

Then for the first time – but not the last – a golden retriever came to their rescue.

“I was watching the television when I saw the Andrex advert featuring the puppy and had a ‘eureka moment’ and immediately set about looking on the Internet to see if Eddie was eligible for a guide dog – which of course he was.

“We applied in October of 2012 and things really started to fall into place quite quickly,”

First of all Guide Dogs Mobility Instructor, Susie Luff, signposted Eddie to his local sensory team to start long cane training and he was also assigned a My Guide volunteer to helped him get out and about more. This led to contact being made with his local Guide Dogs fundraising branch.

“Since getting in touch with Guide Dogs we’ve had a social life and a ‘sounding board’ with other visually impaired families and couples. We started to attend fundraising events and before long we were active members of the branch, which has culminated in me becoming Branch Organiser.

“Guide Dogs and Yara have enabled us to reconnect with our community and I’m busy doing all sorts of things rather than sitting at home feeling sorry for myself watching daytime TV.” Eddie explains.

And when he says busy Eddie is not exaggerating. His new found energy has led to him signing up for a computer science degree at the Milton Keynes-based Open University.

Allison says: “Yara’s made such a real difference to both our lives. She’s given Eddie back his self-confidence and self-respect and we’re both back to our old selves again. And for my part she is also providing reassurance for my own future about which I’d been worried for quite a while as I was diagnosed with glaucoma over 10 years ago. It’s not been a problem to date, but it’s always been at the back of my mind - what if my condition suddenly deteriorated? Well now I know that there’s always Guide Dogs – and as we now know – there’s a lot more to the service than just the dogs.