Margaret, 71, from Kirkintilloch, has had poor eyesight since she was a child, but it wasn’t until she was 19-years-old that she was diagnosed with a rare genetic eye condition called juvenile glaucoma.
This progressive and degenerative condition has involved many life readjustments for Margaret, as her sight gradually deteriorated over the years. Having worked in the civil service for 29 years before being medically retired, Margaret now has just light perception, with the occasional flashes of colour. Margaret describes this as "white blindness", somewhat like walking through a shapeless dense white fog.
Speaking about the support she has received, Margaret said: “Guide Dogs first came into my life in 2002 when I was partnered with my first dog Bruce, who reopened and transformed my world. My love affair with the charity continues to this day and I try to give back as much as possible, for all they have done for me.
“My three guide dogs were called Bruce, Jack and Bob. They were all unique in their own way and they were my much-loved and trusted friend. They all brought so much joy to my life.”
For many years, Margaret had the independence and freedom to get out and about safely with the support of a guide dog. Then, in December 2021, everything changed. Margaret’s guide dog, Bob, collapsed unexpectedly while they were out working.
Margaret said: “It happened very suddenly. My dog collapsed and died when I was out with him. We were working at the time. Very fortunately I had a friend with me but when Bob collapsed, we couldn’t get him up. A kind stranger stopped and managed to lift Bob into his car and bring him to my house so we could get him to the vet.”
Being so suddenly without a guide dog was a very scary experience. “I was terrified of going out the door,” Margaret continued. “You get used to the freedom and independence. Then to lose that it’s quite traumatic.”
Guide Dogs’ Vision Rehabilitation Team have given Margaret the confidence to get back out again, helping her to navigate safely with her white cane and teaching ways to find landmarks. They’ve even showed her how to put an app on her phone that helps her read documents, letters or labels. “I couldn’t have done that myself,” she admits.
The Vision Rehabilitation Team worked with Margaret for a couple of hours each week for six months. “My local authority couldn’t supply the services the rehab team gave me so otherwise I would have been stuck in the house for a couple of years without being able to get out at all,” she says.
After the tragic loss of Bob, Margaret is now waiting on her next guide dog, while receiving vision rehabilitation and sighted guide support from Guide Dogs. She concluded: “I have so much to be thankful for. Guide Dogs, their staff, and their volunteers, have supported me with wonderful dogs, vision rehabilitation support and their amazing sighted guide service. They have all been there for me, just when I needed them most and with just the right help.