Paddy's farewell a sad but happy one

IT will be a sad farewell in February but Lorraine Darsa and her family will take comfort in knowing Paddy, their seeing eye puppy, is destined for great things.

Mrs Darsa first dreamt of being a Seeing Eye Dog Australia carer many years ago after watching a friend taking care of a puppy. But with young children of her own, taking on such a responsibility did not seem possible.

"It would have been like having another child," Mrs Darsa said. "I wouldn't have been able to cope."

But now her children are teenagers, what once seemed too demanding became a realistic prospect, so at the start of the year she began the application process. After several months she and Paddy, a Labrador puppy, were matched.

Family pet Kuju — a mixed terrier who was never destined for the sort of responsibilities Paddy faces — was initially wary of the new family member: "He didn't want a puppy hassling him," Mrs Darsa.

But Mrs Darsa said the pair had become inseparable: "Kuju keeps Paddy in line, boy does she keep him in line."

The family's role is to involve Paddy in all their day-to-day activities including rides on public transport, visits to the swimming pool or cinemas or trips to the hospital.

Mrs Darsa said they also teach him the "everyday things" like how to sit and not to chew things, so his Seeing Eye trainer can focus on other vital skills.

"It's actually taught us how intelligent Labs are. Within a day, he will learn something we've taught him."

Paddy's training will finish in February and he will leave the Darsa household to be paired with someone he can help.

"I have prepared myself for it. I knew that he wasn't mine. But my son will be affected more because they've gotten especially close," Mrs Darsa said.

Seeing Eye Dog Australia carers are urgently needed. Anyone wishing to get involved should visit seda.org.au.

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