BELFAST – A Belfast woman is showing what it truly means to place her trust in the unseen.
“I guess I am too interested to be afraid,” said Sarah G. Smith, a graduate of the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program. “Being interested and curious kind of overwhelms the feeling of fear.”
They say dogs are man’s best friend but for Hamilton, he’s a woman’s best friend and he’s also her eyes.
“Having a guide dog helped me improve my independence as a blind person,” said Smith.
Smith has been blind since she was 30-years-old due to type 1 diabetes. While being blind isn’t easy, she’s not allowing it to bring her down.
“Being blind was a big strike against me,” she said. “Being depressed would be two strikes.”
Smith got her first dog from guiding eyes for the blind in 1990. They are a nonprofit organization that provides trained guide dogs to graduates of their program at no cost. She’s no stranger to utilizing their services. In fact, she’s gone through the program five times.
“Not just so that I could travel as a blind person but also I had relationships with people more like that of a sighted person.
Smith is a thrill seeker and loves going on adventures. Hamilton is like a partner and their relationship is growing. She regularly travels around Belfast using a map she’s constructed in her mind.
“The more he gets to know my routes, he’s more familiar and confident,” said Smith.
Hamilton isn’t like the last four dogs that have guided her. Smith says he’s affectionate and their communication continues to improve every day.
“It’s really me making the decisions. I take care of the big picture,” said Smith. “He takes care of the small picture.”
While she hates being blind, Smith says it’s a blessing and a curse. It has helped her see the world in different ways that sighted people cannot.
“There’s still lots of me,” she said. “I am not going to have it completely control my life.”