Welcoming a new dog into your home can have quite a few “pawsitive” effects on you and your entire family. Their unconditional love, companionship, and comfort are some of the main reasons pet parents cannot imagine life without their furry family members.
But for six-year-old Rubin, who is registered blind, having his new best friend “Buddy Dog Vesper” by his side has been profoundly life-changing.
Rubin cannot see at all with his right eye and has limited vision in his left. He was born with a rare condition called persistent foetal vasculature, which caused the blindness in his right eye. He has also been diagnosed with nystagmus, a condition where the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements. These movements often result in reduced vision and depth perception. They also tend to affect balance and coordination.
“Vesper acts like a guide dog in so many ways and he is so protective and thoughtful of Rubin and his needs. He really is wonderful,” says Rubin’s mother, Eve.
Since joining their family in October of last year, the three-year-old Golden Retriever has had a remarkable effect on Rubin. They have seen Rubin’s confidence grow when walking outdoors and meeting new dogs—which Rubin used to find incredibly intimidating.
“’We are an adventurous family, we love to go out and explore and having Vesper has given Rubin so much more confidence. If we stop for a rest while Vesper is off the lead, Vesper comes straight back to check that Rubin is okay,” says Eve.
Rubin and his family love to explore the outdoors, and a few of their main hobbies include paddle-boarding, hiking, and wild swimming. Rubin struggles with his coordination and has to rest often while they are on an adventure. Vesper can sense this and is always by his side.
What is a Buddy Dog?
A Buddy Dog is a friendly, well-behaved pet dog that has been given a career change because life as a guide dog wasn’t quite right for them. Vesper originally followed the same training path as a guide dog, but the change of career to buddy dog better suited his affectionate nature.
Buddy Dogs enable children with a vision impairment to enjoy the benefits and friendship of a well-behaved pet dog. They can help a child with sight loss increase their physical activity, build confidence, and create better relationships with others.
“I’ve taken Vesper into town alone for a couple of trial runs, and he’s a different dog with his buddy dog jacket on. It’s as if he reverts to guide dog mode, and it takes my respect to a different level. I’m looking forward to taking Rubin out and knowing that Vesper is going to be fine in busy situations,” says Rubin’s mother.
However, a buddy dog is different than a guide dog in multiple ways. They are not legally allowed to be anywhere a pet isn’t welcome, and they should never be used as a mobility aid or sighted guide. It is the job of an adult to hold the leash of a buddy dog.
Vesper is a three-year-old Golden Retriever who was matched with Rubin through Guide Dogs Cymru, an association that provides life-changing mobility services to adults, children, and young people with sight loss. Their goal is to do what they can to ensure that anyone who loses their sight doesn’t lose their freedom as well. A Buddy dog can have an incredibly amazing effect on a child with sight loss.
The Dynamic Duo first met in October of last year, shortly after the Buddy Dogs program became available through Guide Dogs Cymru. Eve, Rubin’s mother, hopes that the relationship between Vesper and Rubin will help him bond with a guide dog when he is older. One of the purposes of a Buddy Dog is to prepare children with sight loss for a guide dog later in life.
“I would love it if Rubin could have a guide dog in the future, and he will learn so much from Vesper. I hope many more families living with sight loss will benefit from this amazing service when they realize how well behaved these dogs are…so different from an ordinary pet,” says Eve.
Eve wants to encourage other families who have children with sight loss to consider adding a Buddy Dog to their family. They have seen such an incredible impact on Rubin and want to bring awareness for visual impairment and guide dogs.
“I know some people with children with sight loss may feel nervous but the dogs are so well trained and so calming. I would urge anyone to give it a go,” says Eve.
If you would like to keep up with Vesper and Rubin on their adorable adventures, you can follow them via social media by clicking here.