Irondequoit N.Y. — Blindness can occur at any age. Guide dogs can assist blind or visually impaired people with daily life. The nonprofit Guiding Eyes for the Blind provides guide dogs to people with vision loss.
Wherever Jim McKnight goes, his new best friend, 2-year-old Peony, is right by his side.
“Come and sit down. Good girl,” said McKnight, from Irondequoit.
They love hanging out in the shop. McKnight’s done a lot of tinkering in there. He’s always been the go-to fix-it guy for friends and family. He loves making toys for his grandkids.
“This is a gumball machine I made," said McKnight.
All of it was put on pause for a bit after he had a heart attack, double bypass surgery, and a couple of strokes that took most of his vision.
“I can see my hand now up here, but now down here it is gone,” said McKnight.
“We had to figure out life,” said McKnight’s wife, Victoria.
With support from his wife, friends and family, McKnight had to adjust to this new way of living. Peony is a huge part of that.
“When Victoria went back to work after three months she took off to help me out, those were lonely days. So when I got her (Peony) a lot changed,” said McKnight.
“Peony do you want to go for a walk?” McKnight asked.
Peony is a guide dog, a gift from the nonprofit, Guiding Eyes for the Blind that trains and provides guide dogs at no cost to the recipient.
“Here we go. Stay," he said.
“She takes me to the curb. She stops at all curbs. So at all intersections, she is going to stop. She does it all on her own,” said McKnight.
Walks with her brings McKnight the freedom and independence he'd been missing since he lost his vision about a year ago.
“I don’t hear any cars sweetie so we can go. Find me a curb. Take me to the curb,” said McKnight to Peony.
“When she is in my hands and I’m holding onto that harness, it is the most comfortable, easy thing to do."
McKnight is feeling so good he‘s tinkering again in his shop.
Guiding Eyes is located in Westchester County. You can apply for a guide dog online. Guiding Eyes provides services free of charge. Guiding Eyes has graduated more than 10,000 guide dog teams since 1954.