Sitting at 1 meter and 42, Cooper is a handsome blonde male whose hobbies include daily afternoon runs, differentiating types of flora, such as grass, plants, barks and dirt. He also enjoys freshly poured water, long walks on the beach and any kind of sport that involve bouncing equipment.
No, Cooper is currently not a student at Wollongong University, but one day, someone like him might be. At 14 months of age, Cooper is feeling a little excited about graduating from Puppy pre-school into the next chapter of his life: He will now leave his owner Nick, and begin his intensive 20 weeks training course where he will transform from an adolescent into a fully grown, trained guide dog.
Ever since Nick learned that his uncle suffered from glaucoma (the result of abnormally high pressure inside the eye) and was slowly losing his vision, he began searching for simple things he could do in order to improve his uncle’s way of living.
Nick began to learn braille and with the help of his mother, they decorated his uncle’s house with braille embroidered signs, in hope that his uncle would slowly begin to learn braille himself. Sadly, the increased pressure of Nick’s uncle’s eye eroded the optic nerve tissues, which lead him to total blindness sooner than expected.
Although the family came together at this difficult time, his uncle felt alone and secluded from the outside world. Being of age, he felt he would now spend the rest of his life alone, often doubting his ability to continue easy, everyday tasks without his sight.
Being a busy 21 year old student, Nick began lacking time to visit his uncle and a feeling of guilt took over him when he overheard his uncle talking to his mother one night.
‘I can’t even see the colour black anymore. It’s as if you place the palm of your hands in front of your eyes and held them there. Its just blank.’ I heard him say that and my heart broke, I knew I had to do something, I have so much, and he has… well not even darkness’.
After that night, Nick contacted Guide Dog Australia and went in for a meeting. This is where he met Cooper, a tiny little pup weighting a merely five kilos.
‘He would turn his head to the side and wiggle his tail, and I know that’s what every dog does, but he just knew he was coming home with me’.
After receiving the qualifications to become a trainer, Nick took Cooper home with the happy approval from his mother, who cried when meeting the friendly pup.
‘She cries about anything these days’. Laughs Nick.
Nick’s uncle was so thrilled with the news and has been living with Cooper who is now a very much loved member of the family. Even though he is not completely certified yet, Nick and his uncle will farewell Cooper for the next 20 weeks in hope that he passes all his skills test and training with colourful grades and come back to what has become a changed life for all of those around Cooper.
Before my interview with Nick and his uncle ended, I took the liberty of asking his uncle a quick question:
-How would you describe the colour yellow to a blind person?
‘Cooper, that’s how. He has given me back my sight’.
* Please scroll down to the bottom and refer to my Vox pops #2 ‘How would you describe the colour yellow to a blind person?’.