One morning in January 2011, Paraic Barnes woke up with a big ink blot obscuring his vision but he walked his daughter to school as normal. “I tried to burn the image into my mind, I knew it could be the last time I saw her face.”

The Clare father of two suspected a retinal detachment in his left eye, having suffered the same condition in his right eye 12 years before. A trip to the eye doctor confirmed his suspicion and he spent the next six months undergoing extensive eye surgery. However, in June 2011 he was left with total sight loss. His family dealt with the situation with humour, regularly playing pranks like swapping his potatoes with lemons for dinner or his toothpaste for fake tan.

Paraic & Guide Dog Uzz in the burren

Paraic’s family got him through the initial stages of accepting his blindness. “I concentrated on what was most important to me and that was my family”, he explains. “If they were ok, I was ok.”

“Moving from a long cane to a Guide Dog was like changing from a scooter to a motorbike”

Paraic’s positive attitude was an enormous help in dealing with his vision loss but he credits his Guide Dog Uzz with the biggest leap forward in independence. “Moving from a long cane to a Guide Dog was like changing from a scooter to a motorbike”, he explains.

“It was Uzz more than anything else that smoothened the transition from being sighted to non sighted. It was easier accept a dog than a long cane”

At the start 2018, disaster struck, Uzz suffered damage to his left cruciate ligament. This meant he had to come back to Cork for surgery and lengthy recovery.

Paraic & Guide Dog Uzz Picture Conor McCabe Photography.

“Without Uzz there was a visible dip in my mood. I didn’t know why at first but after a while I realised I was no longer able to just pop down to the shops or get out and about”

“Uzz’s cruciate went in April and I got him back fully recovered in September and then in November the second cruciate went so it was then we knew it was time for Uzz to retire”.

With Uzz retired Paraic was once again without a Guide Dog so he was back waiting for us to find a dog that would match with him. That match came along in the shape of Ugo.

Paraic and Ugo graduated together in March 2019 and Paraic feels Ugo will make a massive difference to his life.

“Getting Ugo feels like a new lease on life, a bounce back to positivity and independence”

Paraic & Guide Dog Ugo

“My future is so bright I need to wear shades!”

With his busy job as a school inspector, Paraic continues to travel all around the country. “My future is so bright I need to wear shades!” he jokes.

View all stories