Nicola Pamphilon and Kimber

A newfound confidence thanks to Guide Dogs

Guide dog owner Nicola walking with her black guide dog Kimber outdoors

Full-time mum Nicola, who is registered severely sight impaired / blind, from Oxfordshire used to not go out because previous falls and trips on broken pavements and kerbs caused her to lose her confidence. This all changed in June 2015 when Nicola qualified with Kimber, her black Labrador cross Golden Retriever guide dog.

Despite being born with Bardet Biedl - a genetic syndrome - Nicola did not receive a diagnosis of rod cone retinal dystrophy until 2000 when she was registered severely sight impaired / blind.

Nicola explains: “I was born with extra fingers and toes – a result of Bardet Biedl - but no other affects presented themselves. At school I wore glasses and then grew more aware of my night blindness.

“It was during my final year at university studying to be a nursery school teacher that my books became too blurry to read which, I put down to working for my finals, but it wasn’t until I returned home after finishing my degree that my Mum noticed a big change to my sight.”

Nicola was diagnosed at Oxford Eye Hospital and soon had training with a white cane to maintain her independence. “I used my cane but I kept falling when out and about in my local village due to uneven pavements. These falls and trips caused me to stop going out. I became very isolated.

“I didn’t have the confidence to go out. Not even to go to my mum’s round the corner or even to collect my daughter from school.”

Nicola went back to college at the Royal National College for the blind in Hereford to train in Business and Admin as her idea was to train other people with visual impairments in computer assistive technology. It was here that Nicola met her husband and later they had their daughter, Emma.

When training with a cane Nicola was given information about Guide Dogs but put off enquiring until 2014. “I just felt I had to do something to regain my independence and exploring guide dog ownership stood out to me as the right thing to do.”

Nicola trained with Kimber her guide dog in May 2015 and qualified the following month.  “Kimber has made a huge difference to me. He’s a big softy when he isn’t working. I am so proud of him. I now feel a lot safer when out and about as he is trained to stop at kerbs and steps and guide me round obstacles. I am growing in confidence more and more as the days go on. It was definitely the right choice to make; I don’t know why I put it off for so long.”

It’s not just Nicola that Kimber has had an effect on. Emma has already started supporting Guide Dogs because of the difference Kimber has made to her mum’s life.

To find out more about Guide Dogs visit: or call: 0345 1430224.