||Damon – Damie to his ‘mum’ Adele and friends - is a nine year old black Labrador guide dog. Earlier this year, Damon became lame in his right hind leg. After x-rays and hip surgery at a private vet practice, Damon’s lameness did not fully resolve and so he was referred to the OVAH for further treatment. A second round of surgery was deemed necessary and was performed in June, and Damon together with his vivacious owner Adele charmed everyone while he was a patient.
|After Damon’s discharge, Adele wrote us a wonderful thank-you letter complimenting us on our staff, students, facilities and service, and when I replied, I asked her whether she would mind if I did a story on the two of them. She agreed and sent me a beautiful letter (published below) along with some very special photos taken by Dawn Scott.
Follow-up contact with Adele has confirmed that Damon is recovering nicely, and while not yet able to put full weight on the leg, was about to leave for Tshipise where he would be able to swim and start using the leg more. He was also scheduled to receive physical therapy once back from Tshipise.
My name is Adele Venter, and I am a very proud guide dog owner. Damon, my ‘boytjie’, has given me a second chance in life… Best thing about Damon is that he does not gossip and will NEVER tell people my secrets. He is so loyal and without a doubt my best friend.
I got Damon on the 4th of March 2006. That is a time in my life I will NEVER forget. What a privilege to become a guide dog owner. The thing is, one does not “just” get a guide dog. The process is lengthy, as we get evaluated first to see if we are able to take care of these very special dogs. One can wait for years before becoming a Guide dog owner. The dog and the owner have to get along in order to become a team, so personalities are what they look at before issuing us with a dog at the South African Guide dog Association.
When we do get chosen we go to “school” and are trained for 3 weeks. Of course this is a challenge, for now you have to get to know your dog and put ALL your trust in him: you need to give up your cane for a dog, meaning that you were in control of the cane, but now you are giving your POWER to a dog. That takes a lot of guts let me tell you… And of course, the poor dog also has to learn to trust you - remember, you are his 3rd handler. First they go to a puppy walker for a year, and after that the dogs go to “school “where they learn how to become clever. We then come in and they show us just how smart they have become over the last 4 to 6 months (which is how long it takes to train them. We go around to malls, travel by train and go for long daily walks. We train in busy areas such as Louis Botha avenue in Johannesburg so the dogs need to be in good shape and mentally with-it… Traffic, as you know, is a debate on its own. They look out for us and honestly guide us through that traffic as if they are the only ones on the road. Our dogs accompany us to restaurants. This is so cute, as they lie at our feet for the whole time we are there. At first that was astounding because one would think they would jump up to see what’s for dinner, but oh no, they just quietly under the table. They also go with us when we travel by plane. By doing all of this together we form a bond. We learn when and how to feed them at certain times, bath them and so become “good” Guide dog owners. One thing I just loved was having Damon sleep in my room at the training centre - that was so special. The very first night I could not believe my ears when Damon snored… What a feeling that was!
All of this we can never really put into words as there aren’t any. The absolute gratefulness is overwhelming.
It takes approximately 6 months to settle in together and form a true bond. The love you feel for this dog is unreal and unconditional. They honestly give us a second chance in life by assisting us with mobility which is one of our main needs. Not to be mobile does take away one’s independence in a huge way. So for me, Damon is not only my best friend and eyes, but my wheels too… My very own BMW cabriolet!
A little background: I lost my sight due to Multiple Sclerosis in the year 2000. Suffers do not generally go blind from MS, and there are only 2% of MS patients in the world who lose their sight due to this auto immune disease. For me though, it has not put me back in any fashion. Damon and I go out there and try to make a difference! I’m a motivational speaker as well as a qualified counsellor and I cannot do any of this without Damie my boytjie! From time to time we organise functions, choose a beneficiary and in that way we give back to the community. We love being out there amongst the needy!
Loads of love
Adele and Damon Venter
"I had to lose my sight, for only NOW I can see..." - Adele Venter