Devante and Mack
31 year old Devante was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa as a child, but hadn’t admitted to himself he needed help. Until one evening when he was picking up his younger sister from school and he didn’t see a car coming towards them. That near miss prompted him to contact Guide Dogs. Now partnered with guide dog Mack he says he has a new lease of life. He no longer worries about going out with friends in the evening and he can confidently pursue his passions like going to the gym.
Devante from Newbury was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa when he was eight. But never really sought any help for this sight loss. After studying animal management, Devante became a farmer. But trying to catch piglets is hard enough for sighted people, let alone when you have tunnel vision. Eventually, he had to give up his job which he loved because of his eye condition.
“I didn’t tell anyone about my visual impairment. I ended up losing a lot of friends over time due to not being able to admit I had this condition. I wouldn’t go to events or parties because the night blindness would affect me so much.
“I used to dread when the clocks go back, because I knew that was when it was the worst for me with my night blindness. The anxiety would kick in because I had this eye condition that wasn’t leaving me.”
“But it was a near miss when I was walking back from picking up my sister from school that was a real turning point. I was waiting on the side of the road to cross and I didn’t see a car coming. I stepped into the road and suddenly it was there. That’s when I reached out to Guide Dogs.”
In 2022 Devante was partnered with Mack - a beautiful red golden retriever Labrador cross. “I can now independently and confidently walk around at night which was one of my biggest fears and affected me so much. Now I feel at ease because I know I have Mack right next to me guiding the way. He’s opened up the world to me in more ways than I ever thought possible” says Devante.
Today Devante works for a sight loss charity in Oxford and is passionate about raising awareness that younger people can have sight loss too. Whilst Devante says he has noticed a shift in public awareness regarding sight loss, sometimes people are still surprised that a young, fashionable guy in high tops and skinny jeans is a guide dog owner. People often assume he's Mack's trainer, rather than being a guide dog owner himself.
“When I would use my cane, I’d see people crossing the road because they didn’t really know what to do with someone with a cane, whereas having a guide dog, people will walk past you and nine times out of ten, they will ask me if I’m training him,” says Devante.
Devante’s partnership with Mack has changed his life. He says it was exhausting having to look around all the time to make sure he could see everything despite his tunnel vision. He would avoid going shopping or on public transport because he found it so stressful. Now, he can go for drinks with his friends without worrying about how he's going to get there.
Devante is also a goalball player and loves how many other guide dog owners he's met through the sport and regularly travels to matches. He also completed the Three Peaks Challenge in July 2023.