Visually impaired Shirley Mcpherson is enjoying more freedom since receiving her first guide dog named Sammy in November.

Guide dog offers local woman independence

Shirley Mcpherson enjoys more freedom since receiving Sammy last November

A black Labrador Retriever has given Shirley Mcpherson a new outlook on life.

The 62-year-old Thacker Mountain resident recently received her first guide dog after living with limited vision for more than 20 years. A work injury in 1990 left her with only blurred sight in her left eye. Mcpherson relied on her husband and a white cane to get around before the arrival of her two-year-old guide named Sammy.

“The reason I wanted to get the dog was to be more independent and go to places myself,” she said. “If my husband was ill and couldn’t take me, then I would really be in a bind. Sammy provides freedom, security and independence.”

Sammy started training at seven weeks and lived with several volunteer puppy raising families until she was matched with Mcpherson last November. The two immediately started training with instructors from B.C. Guide Dog Services. They went to a number of places in the Fraser Valley to get familiar with access issues, including shopping malls, grocery stores and restaurants. They also learned how to deal with obstacles on sidewalks and how to safely cross the street.

“It was very intense for me because I had a fear of falling and then on the second day of training my knee locked,” said Mcpherson. “It was hard for me to go from the cane to the dog. I had to put my whole trust in the dog as she’s the one that’s guiding me.”

Sammy goes with Mcpherson everywhere and knows the route to a number of places in Hope, including Cooper’s Foods, Fields and Sixth Avenue Park. While Sammy guides her around puddles and obstacles, it up to Mcpherson to tell her where to go. The dog understands about a dozen commands and will use her body to shield Mcpherson at intersections that are not safe to cross.

“It’s quite challenging to get around without Sammy,” she said. “She is my companion, but she knows her job. As soon as that harness goes on, she knows she’s working. I think she adopted me.”

B.C. Guide Dogs are on loan to their partners and can work up to eight years before retirement. In most cases, a retired guide dog stays with the family as pet. There’s currently a two-year waiting list at B.C. Guide Dog Services. The organization relies on individual and corporate donations to cover the $37,000 cost of training each guide dog for two years. Mcpherson paid $1 for Sammy as a result of sponsorship, but is responsible for covering all food, care, grooming and veterinarian bills.

Mcpherson is thankful for the role guide dogs play in the lives of those who are visually impaired and will be joining hundreds of people around the world today (April 25) in celebration of International Guide Dog Day .

“Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said. “If they didn’t have B.C. Guide Dog Services, there would be a lot of people at home isolated.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Kan Yon restaurant break-in caught on camera

Owner Kevin Kwong said the break-in will not stop him from doing business

Letter: With Greyhound cuts, cancer care still available for rural residents

Editor, In light of the Greyhound bus lines reducing service in British… Continue reading

Savage West rock at a hoedown for a cause in Hope

Owners of Broke Buckle Clothing Co. held the event to benefit the Heart and Stroke Foundation

A tiny shop with a big heart for the Hope hospital

The gift shop at the Fraser Canyon Hospital is bursting at the seams with new products

Snow prayers answered as Manning Park ski hill opens Friday

Ski hill will be open seven days a week starting Dec. 14, and cross-country trails as well

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

Hundreds attend Hells Angels funeral in Maple Ridge

Body of Chad John Wilson found last month face-down under the Golden Ears Bridge.

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Gas prices to climb 11 cents overnight in Lower Mainland

Hike of 17 cents in less than 48 hours due to unexpected shutdown of Washington state pipeline

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

B.C. fire chief pleads with Ottawa for traumatic stress support

Campbell River fire chief Thomas Doherty presented concerns to federal government

Most Read