Alice and guide dog Dora
Thanks to the support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, 35-year-old Alice from Loughborough now has guide dog Dora to assist her. But Dora doesn’t just help with mobility – she also helps Alice break down barriers and challenge assumptions within Alice’s work as an advocate, supporting people with learning disabilities and autism.
A partnership providing mobility and emotional support
Alice was diagnosed aged 6 with the degenerative sight loss condition Retinitis Pigmentosa. By her mid-twenties, Alice struggled to find work with an employer who would allow flexible working during the darker months, so she had to use a cane due to her night blindness. Someone then suggested applying for a guide dog, and by June 2013, she had qualified as a guide dog partnership with black Labrador Lola.
Alice and Lola had a wonderfully active partnership, with Lola providing mobility, confidence and emotional support. Alice said, “Many people don’t realise that having a guide dog is more than just an orientation partnership – it really is a relationship. One that lifts you emotionally as well as facilitating independence.”
However, following the pandemic and with Lola aged 9, it was decided Lola should retire.
Dora helps Alice to break down barriers
In November 2021, Alice qualified as a new guide dog partnership with yellow golden retriever cross Labrador Dora. Dora is from a litter of nine puppies funded for their entire lifetime by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. She and Alice have built great trust in each other, working well in sync, enabling Alice to get out and about with confidence again.
An unexpected additional benefit to Alice and Dora’s partnership is the impact on Alice’s work. Alice explained, “A lot of the work I do is about challenging people’s perceptions of the disabled community. Being able to turn up at the hospital and speak to a healthcare professional who’s perhaps making assumptions about the person I’m working with, accompanied by Dora, means I’m already challenging their views. It helps me with my work just by having my guide dog with me.”
Dora has also made a great impression on some of the people Alice supports. She said, “Having Dora has helped break down barriers with a lot of people I work with. Many neurodiverse people and people with learning disabilities feel a real connection and affinity to dogs, so visiting with Dora helps. I think that translates back to me as well. I feel more relaxed knowing my dog is there. She provides reassurance and a confidence boost.”
Looking to the future with more confidence
Looking towards the future, Alice is keen to continue working with her passion, to empower and uplift the voices of minorities and the disabled community. She and Dora are actively involved with fundraising for Guide Dogs, and Alice also co-hosts a podcast called Labled, with discussions about the experiences of people with disabilities, chronic illness and health differences.
Talking about the degenerative nature of her eye condition, Alice said, “One thing that has helped me accept the uncertainty of my eye condition and feel more confident about asking for help is my guide dog. Having Dora has encouraged me to get out and do things regardless of potential barriers or difficulties I might face because of my sight loss. The confidence my guide dog partnership gives me makes the prospect of further sight loss a lot less scary.”