VIDEO: Umali trained as a guide by your side

ALMOST everyone who met Labrador Umali in her Warrnambool visit would have gladly taken her home, but the seeing eye dog is saved for someone special.

This week Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SEDA) visited Warrnambool's Vision Australia office to educate community groups and people interested in their services.

The roadshow presentation outlined SEDA's life changing work across the country, giving attendees a better understanding of how dogs like Umali and their trainers help transform the lives of people who are blind or have low vision.

SEDA instructor Anna Gigliotti-Skret said two-year-old Umali had an especially high work ethic and was now fully trained.

"She's a very smart dog so when she works you can see that she's thinking about something maybe 10 metres in the distance," she said.

"If you go one direction she'll be able to find the way back on here own without very much support.

"You're always looking for ways to improve them and making sure all their quirks are manageable by somebody.

"Every dog is different so you've got to approach each one in their own way."

SEDA dog trainer Daniel Fitzgerald said seeing eye dogs gave vision-impaired people more opportunities to enjoy their lives.

"As trainers we're able to train them in a variety of environments - shopping centres, cafes, cinemas, on boats, public transport and those things.

"There's cases when clients come up who do different things we don't even get to teach them, like flying overseas."

It costs more than $35,000 to train one seeing eye dog and SEDA receives no government funding.

As the only national provider of seeing eye dogs within Australia, SEDA is committed to offering services at no cost to the client, making community support and education vital to the program's success.

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