From pinball to gliding

From Pinball to Gliding with Guide Dog Yuri.

You can listen to an audio version of ‘Pinball to Gliding’, below.


When 2016 started, Vanessa Ransley of Hobart was pushing everything uphill. But thanks to a lovable rogue named Yuri, that’s not how the year ended. Guide Dog Yuri has made everything better and brighter.

Vanessa’s fourth Guide Dog, Elton, was prematurely retired in 2015 due to ill health. As sad as it was, Vanessa knew ‘the dog always comes first’ and accepted Elton would need to be retired ahead of time. That meant that Vanessa would need to go on a waiting list for another Guide Dog.

So, what does it mean to have a Guide Dog, and then not?

“When I’m with a Guide Dog, the world opens up before me. It feels like everything is moving out of my way, and the dog is guiding me through it. I’m gliding, not fighting through the journey; it feels seamless.

You’re no longer a pinball bumping into things. It’s actually a really nice way of travelling.

Dodging sandwich boards, café tables and chairs, garbage bins, potholes, even people engrossed in their smartphone screens can all be hazards. With a mobility aid like a Guide Dog, these journeys become safer and far less stressful.

I also understand the public perception of Guide Dogs all too well. I like the fact I’ve been able to take my Guide Dogs anywhere and, ironically, the Guide Dog takes the emphasis away from my vision impairment. People say ‘Lucky you!’ which is much nicer than sympathy or being patronised!

As a music teacher, I often work across two schools, and there are a lot of meetings and professional development activities over the two sites. A Guide Dog means I can do all these things more easily. I am able to negotiate my way through the hustle and bustle of a busy school environment far more safely and efficiently.

Guide Dogs don’t help me teach; but they do get me from A to B without stress, which means I can concentrate on the actual teaching.

So when Elton was retired, I wasn’t at my best. I was sick of bumping into things. I was anxious and frustrated. Starting the year without a Guide Dog with me was awful.

Yuri likes to collect toys to show visitors.

Yuri likes to collect toys to show visitors.

Then in April I met Yuri. He’s very cute. He collects his toys to show visitors and he just wants to be near me. It’s very sweet. I knew all this when we met, but there was one moment during our training together when it just clicked. I knew we were right for each other.

There was a sea of people around the entrance to the Cat and Fiddle Arcade. So many people – the perfect environment for a pinball! I tried to keep my voice calm:

‘Ok… Lots of people, but ok… We can do this… Keep going…’

And we made it through.

And I remember thinking ‘I’m going to love this dog’.

Yuri took the pressure off that day, and he continues to do that every day. I can enjoy the journey with him, not just survive it. Yuri has made a huge difference. Things are attainable. If I do feel a little anxious, I just pat Yuri and it is ok. He is soothing. And he doesn’t want much in return; just food, love and care.”


I can enjoy the journey with Yuri, not just survive it.

And he gets those in spades.

With Yuri, Vanessa is looking forward to a happier New Year this time round. She’s enrolled to complete a Level 4 ORFF Music Education Training Certificate in Melbourne in January (a specialist qualification only a handful of Tasmanian music teachers possess) and Yuri will of course be by her side. Together, anywhere is possible.

Vanessa is grateful for the gift she received when Guide Dog Yuri entered her life.

And she knows people like you are the ones to thank.

“Guide Dogs Tasmania has given me the skills and confidence to get out and about with Guide Dogs like Yuri. And I’m extremely grateful to the public for their donations. I just couldn’t afford him.”

Right now, there are Tasmanians like Vanessa who are alone in the dark and hoping for a brighter New Year through the gift of a Guide Dog.

At a cost of more than $35,000 to get each Guide Dog ready, these are very expensive Christmas presents.

With your help, we can make a difference.

Can we please count on your donation today? 

I knew we were right for each other.

I knew we were right for each other.