Hidden talents of guide dog

James House and Michele O'Neill with Hillsy. Picture: Matthew Poon www.communitypix.com.au d400597
James House and Michele O'Neill with Hillsy. Picture: Matthew Poon www.communitypix.com.au d400597

But as soon as her new owner James House, from Sorrento, calls her over and attaches the signature eye-catching guide dog vest, Hillsy becomes a working dog guiding her master through the darkness.

It’s an exciting time for Hillsy.

She was reunited recently with her raiser, Belmont City College teacher Michele O’Neill, who had not seen her in months.

Hillsy returned to the school where she spent time as a puppy.

The faithful hound was part of Ms O’Neill’s upper school science classes for two years, where she became a special member of the school’s community.

Ms O’Neill said Hillsy’s presence in the classroom had a ‘profound’ effect on student behaviour and interacting with her was a great incentive for students to complete work.

‘I never expected the dogs to be a behaviour regulating tool,’ she said.

‘You don’t often get a 16-year-old asking to sit in a play pen with a puppy.’

For Mr House, who has 8 per cent central vision, Hillsy has given him independence and freedom.

‘Hillsy has brought daily routine and flexibility into my life by making it possible for me to go walking or use public transport at any time,’ Mr House said.

‘I recently went out in the afternoon when it was pitch black.

‘Prior to (having) her, I wouldn’t do that because I can’t judge how far away a car is or (when to) cross the road. When you have a guide dog, people light up around you and they ask you questions.’

‘Thanks to Hillsy, I was recently able to help Dreamfit Foundation with their display and fundraising at Hillarys Boat Harbour during the Boat Dive and Fishing Show.

‘All guide dogs are amazing, but there is something special about Hillsy.’