MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) -- One man credits his guide dog and the only guide dog school in New England in helping him overcome the struggle of losing his sight.
"When I had vision I did have a bit of a fear for certain heights, and so now I can't see the ground, I have no fear of heights at all," said Barry Weatherall.
Weatherall is a client of the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation in Bloomfield. He lost his sight 14 years ago in a workplace accident, but he hasn't lost sight of living large.
"He actually turned it around and did things that he didn't do before his accident," said Fidelco C.O.O. Julie Unwin.
"In the winter just gone I just went dogsled riding in the mountains," Weatherall said. "I also do triathlons, and I also whitewater raft."
He also does some swimming, spinning, cross-country skiing, and even rock climbing. Weatherall says he owes much of his independence to his 4-year-old Fidelco guide dog Owen.
"If I feel I want to go somewhere I can just put the dog on harness and go," he said. "I don't have to rely on people, I don't have to ask people to help me."
Weatherall does most of his rock climbing in the Canadian Rockies near his home in Alberta. In fact, that distance is part of what made Fidelco the natural choice.
"They come to my place and do in-home training, so I don't have to come to the guide dog school," Weatherall explained.
It costs $45,000 to get a dog bred and ready for service as a guide dog. They start them while they're young, and Fidelco specializes in German shepherds, not just because they're good looking.
"We breed them for their temperament, their size, and their stamina," explained Unwin. "The one thing about the German shepherd dog is that it is a true working dog. So, a German shepherd guide dog can work for approximately 10 years."
It's all funded by donations, making life a lot livelier for a guy who lives beyond his vision.
"He gives me a lot of leeway and freedom, and the ladies love him," Weatherall joked. "So, I meet a lot more ladies this way as well!"
For information how to donate or even help raise a guide dog, visit www.fidelco.org .
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