James Bennett and guide dog Brogan in Guide Dogs NSW/ACT book, '60 Tails'

INDEPENDENT: James Bennett, of Fennell Bay, and his guide dog Brogan are featured in a heart-warming new book, '60 Tails'. Picture: Supplied

INDEPENDENT: James Bennett, of Fennell Bay, and his guide dog Brogan are featured in a heart-warming new book, '60 Tails'. Picture: Supplied

A LAKE Macquarie man and his guide dog are featured in a book of 60 short stories which celebrates the 60th anniversary of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

The book, entitled 60 Tails, explains that James Bennett, of Fennell Bay, had a cardiovascular event about 12 years ago which killed the optic nerves in his only sighted eye.

He literally went blind overnight.

“The hardest thing about being blind is not being able to see my grandchildren who are growing up so fast, and it’s frustrating that I have no clue what they look like,” Mr Bennett said.

“I just go on what other people tell me.”

Mr Bennett was introduced to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT while he was in hospital. He did an orientation and mobility program before starting with a long cane and a Miniguide, which is a hand-held device that detects solid objects or obstacles and openings, such as doorways.

But when Mr Bennett narrowly missed being hit by a bus that ran a red light, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT suggested it was time for a guide dog.

Mr Bennett has been with his second guide dog, Brogan, for nearly five years.

“It’s amazing. I’m actually much more confident now with Brogan than when I had my sight,” Mr Bennett said.

“As a sighted person one tends to be a bit distracted. Now it’s just a matter of trusting my dog – if there’s a patch of water or an electric lead across the floor he’ll stop me and tell me there’s something in the way that I need to be wary of. But when I could see I’d just keep trekking on and not look or think.

“The most wonderful thing about having a guide dog is that huge sense of independence he gives me. There’s no way I would consider doing what I do professionally without that independence.”

Mr Bennett is a disability auditor in quality management systems and travels alone with his guide dog all over Australia by air, rail, bus and taxi.

It costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train each guide dog. All Guide Dog NSW/ACT services are provided at no cost to clients.

Less than 2 per cent of the organisation’s funding comes from government, the rest is sourced from generous public donations.