You are blind and don’t want to forever flail your guide cane to find your way or spot obstacles in front of you. So, what are you to do? Well, find a guide dog. And what if you have a dog phobia? Then do what Mohammed Salim Patel did.
Patel is a visually impaired resident of Blackburn, UK, who works as a journalist for the BBC. And he is blind and has a massive dog phobia. It is the dog phobia that has driven him to opt for a guide horse. Says Patel, “I have a big phobia of dogs that I was not able to work out and it was good when I heard about horses being trained.”
He has distinguished himself by becoming the first blind person in the UK to be given a guide horse.Guide horse, you say? Well, these are small horses act as guides for the blind.
Patel is about to receive Digby, who is a two-feet-tall miniature horse. This eight-month-old American guide horse is a godsend for him, as it will enable him to move around and carry out his daily outdoor chores.
Patel went blind due to a degenerative eye condition, known in medical parlance as retinitis pigmentosa. This is a genetic disorder in which the retinal cells, the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye, suffer a breakdown and degenerate, causing blindness.
Before being handed over, Digby is being familiarized with the streets of Blackburn. And it will take all of two years for the training to get over.
Fortunately, Patel always loved horses and was happy to note what benefits this animal can provide for the visually impaired. However, he is a bit apprehensive in using this guide horse and says, “I also think I’ll have to give myself an extra hour to try to get around my daily routine as people will all want to come and see it and touch it.”