It’s not Rudolph, but Clifford, that will help a Janesville man find this way this holiday season

It’s not Rudolph, but Clifford, that will help a Janesville man find this way this holiday season

A Rock County family is celebrating its first holiday season with the addition of a service dog.

Tom Garrett says he’s been slowly losing his vision over his lifetime due to Stargardt disease, which causes progressive damage to a portion of the eye.

“I noticed vision problems when I was in elementary school,” Garrett said. “By the time I was in high school I had been to the Mayo Clinic, had a lot of testing done.”

Eventually, Garrett heard of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. a guide dog program in New York. He went and was paired with a dog named JJ.

“He was very active,” Garrett said. “He was smart, and sharp as a tack.”

For years, JJ joined Tom and his wife Nancy on trips, and helped Tom with daily tasks. In August, however, veterinarians discovered JJ had developed a tumor along his spine.

“It still brings tears to my eyes, it was devastating,” Garrett said.

Eventually, the family was forced to put the dog down. Garrett knew he wanted to complete the guiding eyes program again, however. In December, he flew to New York again, where he was paired with a dog named Clifford.

“I wanted a large yellow male Labrador, and I got a really large, 92-pound fox-red male Labrador,” he said.

“It’s confidence,” said Nancy Garrett, Tom’s wife. “It’s reassuring to know that they could get along without me if something were to happen.”

Tom says if you see him around town with Clifford, it’s important to remember the dog is working, and not to distract it.

For more information about Guiding Eyes for the Blind, click here.

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