The immeasurable impact of guide dogs

In Aotearoa, someone develops blindness every three hours, leaving an estimated 193,000 individuals living with blindness or low vision. The journey to becoming a guide dog is not an easy one, accompanied by a significant cost of approximately $175,000 to raise, train, and maintain one guide dog in service.  Training to become a guide dog is one of the most rigorous programmes among all service animals, requiring immense dedication and resources. The impact of these trained guide dogs cannot be overstated; they open new possibilities and help their handlers live safer, more independent lives.

Claudia’s fun and positive outlook on life is refreshing. She knows that her low vision doesn’t limit her and she enjoys proving to the world that she’s just as capable as the next person. 

Claudia’s low vision is the result of a rare type of cancer known as bilateral Retinoblastoma, which was diagnosed when she was just eight weeks old. While she is left with no vision in her right eye, after it was removed immediately following the diagnosis, specialist treatment was able to save the left eye. Although, significant scar tissue from treatments and surgery mean the useful vision is still extremely limited. This doesn’t define Claudia though, she is a very determined and outgoing person who loves a challenge. 

These days, Claudia is just like any other 22 year old. At the end of 2021 she graduated from university with a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in Health Management. Since then, she has been working full-time as a Recruitment and Allocations Coordinator in the public health sector. A job that keeps her very busy and gives her great satisfaction. 

In her spare time she loves riding her horse, going to the gym and catching up with friends. Claudia joked that it may be a bit dangerous riding her horse with low vision, but she loves it. 

In January 2021, Claudia was matched with her guide dog, Aztec, who is a Black Labrador. As a natural animal lover, it was easy to form a relationship. Aztec is always by Claudia’s side and they make the perfect duo.

“Aztec has completely changed everything” she says, “It’s a completely different independence that I could not possibly have expected.” 

Aztec gets Claudia from A to B safely and she doesn’t need to rely on everyone to help her get around anymore. “She has opened up my world. From making the simple things possible like walking to the local supermarket, through to much more challenging rush hour commutes to and from the office.”

Claudia couldn’t imagine life without Aztec in it now. She is thankful to Blind Low Vision NZ for helping her to live independently and confidently. 

Street Collection Volunteers will be in your neighbourhood on Friday 22nd March and Saturday 23rd March or donate online at Your donation will directly contribute to raising and training puppies, as well as helping to reduce the waiting list for guide dogs.

Related Stories

“Paddy is not an emotional support dog. He is a fully trained International accredited service animal. As a consequence of people not understanding the difference, we have been using the term “guide dog” because that’s the only way that they can understand it,” says Liz. 

Subscribe & WIN!

Subscribe to WOMAN+ for only $19.99 for the year and you’ll have a chance to WIN 2 Nights for 2 at JetPark Rotorua +
an Evening in the Polynesian Spa.

*You can unsubscribe at any time. By signing up you are agreeing to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.