After years of depending on others, Joe Bollard, a blind musician, gained his independence with the help of his faithful Guide Dog.

Joe Bollard, born in 1935, has been blind for the last 80 years, following an operation at the age of two.

In his early twenties, Joe became the lead piano player in a successful band touring with them for seven years. During this time Joe met his wife. “I don’t mind being blind as I never recall being able to see. When I proposed to my wife I said ‘I’m blind and a musician, that’s as bad as it’s going to get!'”

Originally from the west of Ireland, Joe’s family moved to Liverpool when he was seven. Joe never settled in Liverpool and he returned to Ireland the first chance he had at the age of 16. His family were concerned about Joe moving to Ireland by himself but this did not deter him.

For most of his life he always relied on others to help him get around. Despite being a talented piano player, and his years of touring around Ireland and America, he had never been out by himself. He tried using a long cane but never felt safe.

“I was a danger to myself and others,” Joe said. A visit from a schoolfriend in the 1970s changed everything.

Joe’s friend had a Guide Dog and he was amazed at the independence it gave him. In 1975 Joe applied to Irish Guide Dogs and was matched with Adam.

“Before I got a Guide Dog life was ok. I was totally dependent on others. Now life is incredible. I enjoy nothing more than leaving the house first thing every day and strolling down to Bray Harbour.”

Joe now works with his 5th Guide Dog, York, and still appreciates the freedom a Guide Dog provides. “With York as my guide, I take in the sea air, listen to the seagulls, and fetch my morning coffee.”

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