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Dublin: 6°C Thursday 27 January 2022

Bray man Joe Bollard says his guide dog taught him to 'look forward and not back'

‘I trust my dog more than I would trust a human being to guide me.’

JOE BOLLARD BECAME blind when he went into hospital for an operation aged two and his optic nerve was accidentally cut during the surgery.

Sometimes when I close my eyes I can see my mother in a red coat which I think is the coat she wore when she brought me to hospital.

The Bray man was one of the first people in Ireland to get a guide dog in the 1970s.

In a short documentary released today, The Shadow in the Darkness: A guide dogs story, Joe says he trusts his current guide dog York “more than I would trust a human being to guide me”.

York and I are a pack, there’s only two of us but we’re a pack.

“When I wake up in the morning the first thing I think of is the dog. I want to feed the dog, I want to let him out. The last thing I think of before I go to sleep is ‘I wonder is he okay’.”

image (2) Source: The Shadow in the Darkness: A guide dogs story via YouTube

“He is not a machine that you just press a button, some days the dog gets up and he goes ‘I don’t want to be a guide dog. I wants to mess and chase the cats and rummage in that dustbin’.

“He’s my shadow, he just wants to be with me. Sometimes you have to say to him- no stay because he wants to be with me.

“I bring him over to church and he has his own little spot beside the alter and he lies down there and keeps watch until I’m finished.”

joe bollard Source: The Shadow in the Darkness: A guide dogs story via YouTube

In the documentary Joe describes how he found giving up his last guide dog Dylan so upsetting that he didn’t want to get another one.

“Dylan had to retire, it’s not just saying goodbye to a pet dog. You’re saying goodbye to something that’s been part of your life.

Joe brought Dylan back to the Guide Dog training centre in Cork and says that when he walked to the taxi after saying goodbye to Dylan, the dog howled when Joe reached the taxi door.

He howled like he knew, he never did that before.

“I got into the taxi in floods of tears because I knew I was never going to see him again.

“I was so broken up I came home and I said I’m never gonna get another guide dog because I didn’t think anybody would replace Dylan.”

His family convinced him to get another one and Joe now says that he’s always going to have a guide dog.

Source: BlackBox Documentaries/YouTube

“Don’t look back, you’re not going that way- look forward, that’s what I do.

One of the first word they teach your dog and you in training is ‘forward’ and that’s the way you look.

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