Tory Island native and professional carpenter, James Doohan, lost his sight in his early forties due to retinal detachments. Nevertheless, James enjoys the rugged landscape of Tory Island with the help of his guide dog, Jock. James says, “I can daydream as I stroll around the island with the help of my guide dog, Jock, knowing I am safe at all times.”
Life for James Doohan took a drastic turn when he lost his sight due to retinal detachments in his early 40s. Born 1948, James lived on Tory Island until he was seventeen. Having trained to become a carpenter, he moved to London where he married. After James and his wife had their first child they moved back to Donegal where they had three more children.
James had always been short-sighted, however, at the age of 38 he began having greater difficulty seeing when he developed cataracts in both eyes. Subsequently, he underwent cataract surgery which caused him to suffer retinal detachments, leaving him with total sight loss in both eyes.
Having lost his sight, James and his family moved from the mainland back to Tory Island. James knew he would find it easier to get around Tory Island as he remembered every nook and cranny of the island from his childhood. He taught himself how to use a long cane as a mobility aid but always felt he was one step away from danger. In 2000, he trained with his first Guide Dog, Alfie, from Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. Getting a guide dog was life changing as James says, “I can daydream as I stroll around the island with the help of my guide dog knowing I am safe at all times. I can get around more quickly also”
In 2007, James trained with his second Guide Dog Reilly and in 2015 he trained with his third guide dog, Jock. James observes how his guide dogs have different personalities. Jock loves welcoming visitors to the home and enjoys going for a leisurely walk with any member of James’ family. Meanwhile Reilly is indifferent to visitors, and even in his retirement he remains loyal to James only obeying James’s commands
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