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Sunday
Jan082017

GoPro-Wearing Guide Dog Brings Awareness to 'Super Hard' Job

Amit Patel(NEW YORK) --  One blind British man is using his beloved guide dog to raise awareness about the tough job the canines have maneuvering around the city.

When Amit Patel lost his eyesight nearly five years ago due to a disorder called keratoconus his entire life changed, he told ABC News.

Keratoconus is when the shape of one's cornea changes, causing limited sight, blurred vision and glare, according to WebMD. It's most often treated with transplants.

Patel had eight corneal transplants, four in each eye, that were eventually unsuccessful because his body rejected each one, he said.

"Before, I was outgoing. I was independent," the Greenwich, England, man said. "Losing my eyesight was very difficult for me. I mourned the loss of my eyesight for nine months. I was in denial. I woke up every morning thinking my sight would come back again."

But it didn't. So Patel, 37, had to learn how to gain his independence again. First, it was through a walking cane and later with the help of a guide dog named Kika.


After his rehabilitation officer suggested it, Patel was matched with Kika, a 3-year-old Labrador, in September 2015.

"It never crossed my mind at all [to get a guide dog] because I never had a dog," he admitted.

Still, Patel said Kika has changed his life in immeasurable ways, helping him navigate the sometimes tough streets on London to commute to work. He volunteers at The Royal National Institute of Blind People.

"Ninety-nine percent of my journeys are absolutely fantastic. There are so many nice people out there, but it's that 1 percent that makes life difficult," Patel said.

Patel said that often Kika, who is highly decorated with badges to signify that she's a guide dog, gets injured by "rude" people during his commute. He said sometimes people will "budge her," "poke her or push her," and one terrible incident when other commuters told him, "'Oh, that lady just hit your dog with an umbrella.'"

He said these incidents can cause Kika to feel anxiety when taking him around the city.

So Patel started a Twitter account, @Kika_GuideDog, to raise awareness of the importance of guide dogs. He even recently strapped a Go Pro camera onto Kika so people can see what it's like for a guide dog to do its tough job.

"The relationship I have with my guide dog is I trust her 100 percent," Patel said. "If she has a bad day, I have a bad day and vice versa ... I just wanted to tell people if you budge her or if you hit her, it's unacceptable -- especially a dog who’s guiding a blind person."

Patel said Kika has changed his entire life, including allowing him to become a father to 4-month-old, Abhishek.

"We wouldn't have even thought about having a family if it wasn't for Kika," the new father admitted. "That's why it's so passionate for me. It's like harming a child. In our household, she's not a guide dog ... she's the big sister to our little son.

"She's so loyal," Patel continued. "The moment the harness goes on, she changes from being a boppy little girl in the house ... to being the most incredible guide dog."

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