After a deflating year of unsuccessful attempts at trying to get a service dog for her vision impaired daughter, it was a passing moment at the shopping mall that changed her family forever.
“For whatever reason that day Cheysa and I stopped to wander through the mall, not something we just do on the regular. I saw a gentleman in a wheelchair with a service dog with a vest on. Something I also do is not just walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation, but we started talking to him about the dog,” said Goudie. “I told him of all the challenges we have had in trying to get a service dog and he pulled out this card of where he got his.”
Cheysa, 4, is not blind in both eyes, making it difficult to get a service dog through other streams, so after a year of internet research, emails and calls to various organizations it was this unexpected conversation that led Goudie to a team in Pincher Creek, Alta. that places dogs with families.
“It is 100 per cent fate. We had another dog, a little shih tzu named Murphy. He was 16 years old when he died while I was pregnant with Cheysa. We were talking with the trainers and they said they thought they would have a match for us. A dog coming from a good home, but because of life circumstances the family had to find new owners for him. His name, they said, is Murphy. It all just lines up,” said Goudie.
Cheysa has Anisometropic Ambiyopia OD and Exotropia, a severe vision disability. As a result, she is legally blind in her left eye. In order to preserve the sight she has, a patch must be worn on her good right eye until she is about seven or eight.
“At that age we have all the vision that we will work with according to our specialist. So we are trying to set a good baseline to work on by covering that good eye to prevent from losing it too,” said Goudie.
A service dog would help Cheysa navigate roads and parking lots to warn her about vehicles and people coming toward her, would help move her aside from oncoming people approaching at fast speeds, assess the safety of people in crowds and help ease her anxiety of not knowing who is approaching.
Goudie said she is starting to notice Cheysa backing off or shying away from activities with her peers. Not being able to see them at a distance or if objects are coming towards her quickly makes it difficult to run and play. Cheysa understands the family is getting a special dog, but not that the handsome Golden Retriever will be more than that. When Murphy puts on his service vest he will be her protector and her eyes when she can’t see.
“She is excited, but I don’t know if she understands the freedom it will give her. I think we don’t even yet. Once we go through the training I think we all will recognize how much we will be able to rely on him,” said Goudie, fighting back tears. “When we go to the park we will be able to sit with other parents and just watch her play with all the kids. We won’t have to be beside her every step in case she misjudges a distance or goes to step off something that could be dangerous. She will be able to just be a kid.”
The estimated costs for training is between $2,500 and $3,000. Murphy is currently finishing up his pre-training in Pincher Creek and the family hopes to welcome him home in early March. He will conduct the service dog training with the family in Penticton.
The fundraiser is from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 26) at the Cannery Brewing Co. on Ellis Street. Suggested donation is $10. There will be a silent auction and door prizes. The team from Get Bent will offer salsa dance instructions. Organizers are also challenging those in attendance to put on a patch like Cheysa wears and try a few activities to see the difficulties she faces every day. Activities will have a scoring system and prizes for the most successful patched participants. A GoFundMe account has also been established for those that want to donate but cannot make it. It is www.GoFundMe.com/service-dog-for-cheysa.