Danae Sweetapple is never seen without her Lily, and little Lily is never without her human.

They are one and the same, a dynamic duo, a team tackling the world together.

But their bond goes beyond just a woman and her best friend.

They are an extension of one another, and thanks to Lily Ms Sweetapple has a chance to live life to the fullest.

Ms Sweetapple was born completely blind and by 14 she had been through 20 surgeries to restore her vision.

Danae Sweetapple and her guide dog Lily.
Danae Sweetapple and her guide dog Lily.

She now lives with about five per cent tunnel vision, but describes it as “wobbly” vision.

“I have enough sight to keep me out of mischief, but not enough to see my feet,” she said.

In April, after Ms Sweetapple’s previous dog Olive was retired, Lily walked into her life and today she will be celebrating her graduation from guide dog school.

Ms Sweetapple began using a guide dog when she was 24 and it changed her life in ways she said she couldn’t imagine.

She said the need for a dog arose after a few near misses, accidentally stepping in front of traffic.

After those scares, the need for a dog became dire.

“I use a guide dog to keep me safe,” she said.

“She gives me independence but that also extends to my family so they don’t have to guide me.

“They can relax knowing I can move without them having to take me places all the time.

“Lily’s role goes beyond giving me independence it also gives them independence.”

Lily has gone a long way in improving Ms Sweetapple’s quality of life.

“Once I got a dog I could go out by myself and function as a regular person would,” she said.

“I could go to university, go the shops, I have two beautiful children, I could go to the pool, exercise – it has changed my life.

“Once you’ve had a few knocks fear sets in.

“Once you become fearful of something it accumulates.

“The freedom the dog has given me has changed my life.”

The global pandemic presented some challenges when it came to bonding Lily with Ms Sweetapple.

Shop and cafe training were put on hold by the lockdowns and store closures, and busy parks with unrestrained dogs became dangerous for the pair to navigate.

Despite the challenges, the pair have made it out the other side and following graduation are looking forward to being in a partnership for a long time to come.

“I feel proud and so grateful to have the opportunities that she offers to continue with my independence,” she said.

“The thought of not having a Lily or an Olive leaves me cold.

“It’s really a privilege.”

Originally published as How visually impaired city mum and guide dog tackled COVID challenges


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