"It gives you part of your life back."
This is how Highlander Lucia Corradi describes what getting her Seeing Eye Dog Aura did for her.
Before they were paired together four years ago, Lucia's life was getting more and more difficult.
She has lived with a disability since the age of 10 but it was not until her 40s that her sight started to deteriorate.
Lucia lost her confidence and was afraid to go out by herself.
She found people often didn't understand why she needed assistance.
"When you've got a visual impairment, it's not a physical thing people can see."
But all that changed when Aura came into her life.
"She's like my best friend. I'm lost without her, we're so bonded. People have been so helpful since I've had her and they can see that this person does need help which is great.
"I feel more comfortable going out by myself."
With Aura by her side, Lucia has been able to achieve a life goal when she completed the City 2 Surf last year.
"I've been able to do things like that [since I got Aura]. I did the seven bridges walk, I can get out in the community and go to the city on the train by myself."
Lucia was also lucky she didn't have to wait too long once she made the decision to apply for a Seeing Eye Dog.
She said she was impressed with the support from Vision Australia and the time they took to make sure she got what she needed.
"They match you up perfectly."
And there are many people like Lucia whose independence and wellbeing rely on the assistance of a Seeing Eye Dog.
But being able to provide this vital service does not come cheaply.
It costs over $50,000 and can take up to two years to train a Seeing Eye Dog.
And in the end, Lucia said on average only 50 per cent of each litter became a Seeing Eye Dog.
There are the ongoing costs of supporting people who have Seeing Eye Dogs and people will often need more than one dog during their lifetime.
Lucia said their working life was about eight to 10 years and she had been in touch with a lady who now had her third dog.
"People don't realise how much is involved."
The Petbarn Foundation and Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs have teamed up again this year to hold their annual fundraiser.
From now until August 2 Petbarn Mittagong will accept donations.
The appeal aims to raise more than $500,000 to help cover the costs of breeding, training, and caring for at least 10 Seeing Eye Dogs.
Lucia said this annual fundraiser was so important to people who were vision impaired or blind and needed a Seeing Eye Dog.
"Just be aware of how much that really does change someone's life even though you might not think it does."
Donations for The Petbarn Foundation's appeal can be made online at petbarn.com.au/seda or by visiting a Petbarn store.
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