Harper's Newsletter

Happy Chinese New Year – the Year of the Snake

Since the December newsletter, Lindy and I have been making the most of the festive season. Lindy has been enjoying the good food and drinks, while I played with Duffy and Freyja, four-legged additions to the extended family. Between Christmas and New Year, Lindy went to the coast for a camping holiday with her family while I took a well-earned holiday by the poolside in Canberra.

Apart from riding up to the summit, triathlon in Penrith and preparing for a 50km charity walk, Lindy is now working on getting her Motivational Speaking Business going.

Sea to Summit

After working with Lindy for over nine years, I have discovered that the only area where we are compatible is that we both love food!

According to the Guide Dogs Instructor’s assessment note, Lindy was after a female Golden Retriever that loves to run and walk really fast. Being a male Black Labrador, my request (never filed) was that I was looking for a handler who likes to take things easy, walk slowly and chill out as much as possible! How we got to team up remains a mystery to me.

Needless to say that my preferred mode of transport for the 237km from Tathra to Charlotte Pass, was in a vehicle, while Lindy’s preferred mode of transport was on the back of a tandem!

On 22nd December, Lindy and Elton were invited to join the Bega road riders in their summer solstice pilgrimage. They took off at 5:30am from Tathra Surf Club with two other cyclists to ride from sea level to the highest paved road in Australia. Five other cyclists left an hour later and joined them at the morning tea stop at Nimmitabel.

The tandem pair arrived at Charlotte Pass at 8:35pm. It was a close race between them reaching the finish line or the sun set! The setting sun lighted up the mountain. Lindy was able to appreciate the beauty of the Snowy Mountains even with her limited sight.

The toughest part of the day was between Jindabyne and Charlotte Pass, a mere 45km of up hill! It was then that they wondered if “a recent land shift must have increased the gradient of the climb” or “had setting the tandem record for the 10km climb up the Brown Mountain done the damage?” or “maybe the 30km chase into Cooma had hammered their legs.”

In true non-Labrador nature, neither of them was willing to tell the other that getting into the car would be a much quicker option. The pair tackled the hills one pedal stroke at a time. Some 500 pedal strokes equate to 1km @30×27 gear! Or was it 490 strokes? Mind was a bit numb after a while!

It took just as long for the support crew to cover the distance, however, the energy expended was a lot less. Lindy consumed 12 litres of water/sport drinks; lots of fruit cake; salad rolls; Sports Gels and even a milk shake at Jindabyne! Unfortunately, the milk shake didn’t agree with her! What happened to sports nutrition that Lindy learnt over the years?

It was a very challenging day for both Lindy and Elton but the satisfaction of reaching the top was all worthwhile for them.

Special thanks must go to Jan for driving the support car, Dominique for organizing the day and all his support and all the other riders who encouraged them along the way.

Paratriathlon National Championships

Lindy won Gold at the inaugural National Paratriathlon Championships on the 11th January. The event was held at the Olympic Rowing Regatta Centre at Penrith.

It was a special place for us. Our first visit there was nine years ago, when I was just a young lab a mere nineteen months old. The guide dog instructors took us along with three other guide dogs and their handlers to learn how to work with each other.

Once Lindy and I started on the path around the rowing course, I broke into a trot. Lindy was really pleased that she was able to jog along with me. We completed the 5km circuit so far ahead of the others that I was able to have a nap under the tree while we waited for the others to finish.

Now that I am older and wiser, I leave all guiding above walking pace for humans to do.

Rae Wells had the job of guiding Lindy for the entire triathlon. They won the T6, Vision Impaired category. It was dead heat between Rae and Lindy after a 750m swim. Rae led Lindy into the transition area at the end of the 20km tandem bike leg. Lindy won the 5km run, as her guide wasn’t allow to cross the finish line ahead of her! The pair finished the race in one hour 29 minutes.

The most challenging part of the race was to wear the blackout glasses for the run. This is the International rule to ensure all vision-impaired triathletes are competing on the same level!

It was wonderful that Louise Sauvage, John McLean and Michael Milton also competed in the event. They are some of the legends in Paralympic Sports. Paratriathlon will be one of the two new sports that will be introduced at the Rio Paralympic Games.

Coastrek 50km Charity Walk

Lindy is certainly very passionate about raising funds to find a cure for all the genetic degenerative eye conditions. Lindy also believes that for those people who have treatable blindness, lack of money should not get in the way of a cure.

Lindy is participating in this year’s Coastrek Walk to help raise money and awareness for this cause. Coastrek is organized by the Wild Women on Top to raise money to support the work of the Fred Hollows Foundation. The major work that the Foundation does is to restore sight for those who are needlessly blind.

Lindy along with three other Achilles Running Club members, Ellis, Peter and Julie, will embark on this 50km night Walk from Balmoral to Coogee Beach on the Friday 1st March. Ben Phillips, another vision impaired Achilles member will tackle the 100km challenge from Palm Beach to Coogee as another Achilles team.

At 6pm on Friday evening, the four will begin at the oval on Balmoral Beach. They will pass the exclusive houses on the waterfront around Mosman and Kirribili, go past Taronga Park Zoo and hear the animals talking to each other at night (they will also smell them too!). Then they will walk over the stunning Sydney Harbour Bridge and make their way around the foreshore to Wooloomooloo and past the famous Harry’s Café on Wheel. After a quick coffee, they will charge on around the coastline through Kings Cross, Rushcutters Bay, Double Bay, Rose Bay, in fact lots of bays. They will then head up the hill towards South Head, passing some of the most expensive real estate in Sydney such as Nicole Kidman’s waterfront mansion at Point Piper. They will pass the famous Doyles Seafood Restaurant at Watson Bay before heading around the bushland to the Gap. From there, it is smooth sailing (walking actually!!) as they make their way down the East Coast of Australia to beautiful Bondi Beach. The quad will need to resist the wonderful food that Bondi has to offer, and keep pressing on for just a short way up and over some stairs to the big finishing line at Coogee Beach!

If you are wondering what my role is for this walk, I will be on the welcoming party at Coogee. A smart guide dog knows that the most comfortable way to travel from Balmoral to Coogee Beach is in a vehicle. And besides, no amount of overtime (dog bones) would convince me to take on the job of guiding Lindy for this walk. I will leave it all to the humans!

The challenge for Lindy is to do this walk at night. As most of you know, Lindy’s eye condition means that she has little or no sight at night. She will be totally reliant on her guides during the walk; going up and down steps; drain crossings; low hanging trees; cars; telegraph posts and any other objects along the way. I think the real challenge for Lindy is to stay awake through the night! Lindy generally does not even make it past 9pm before falling asleep. Her guides are very experienced in guiding vision impaired people on trail walks, but I am not sure how they will go guiding a blind one that is asleep!

I will tell you all about this walk in the next issue of my newsletter.


“No matter how dark the night is, the sun will always rise in the morning.“