BRONCO the black labrador is the best Christmas present Matt Bryant has ever received.
The pair will be inseparable as Mr Bryant, who was born with a congenital condition leading to loss of vision, negotiates the streets of Orange.
Residents are being asked to play an important role in ensuring the partnership lasts for a long time.
Guide Dogs NSW told Mr Bryant they would provide him with a companion dog in 2011 after a near miss with a car while trying to cross the road.
“That 16 months has been worth the wait, he’s just great,” he said.
Ben Schwartz of Guide Dogs NSW says the pair still face challenges together in the coming weeks as Bronco familiarises himself with the sights and sounds of the city, and the people of Orange have an important role to play.
“Roundabouts are a big issue for them both, but so are things like dogs off leashes who rush up to Bronco who is, of course, being led by someone who can’t see,” Mr Schwarz said.
However, it is well meaning people who want to pat the irresistible black labrador who can jeopardise the relationship, Mr Schwartz said.
“He is a beautiful dog, an absolute champion,” he said.
“But we are really hoping people will help them both out by not rushing up to pat Bronco while he’s in his harness working and always speak to Matt first.”
Man and dog met in November and formed an instant rapport.
Two days after Christmas Bronco, named after Mr Bryant’s favourite football team, arrived at his new home.
Mr Bryant and Bronco stayed away together from the busy family home for four days as they established an important bond.
On New Year’s Eve Bronco and Mr Bryant returned home, ready to start their new life together.
“It was an interesting night,” Mr Bryant said.
“It was the same night as the fireworks, but after the initial excitement with the children he just settled down.”
It is not all hard work for Bronco, who is taken off the harness when he’s not working and enjoys the delights of his new family home in Orange.
Mr Bryant went blind in his right eye overnight when he was 14, and has also had to endure deteriorating eyesight in his left eye ever since.
He is now legally blind.
Yesterday morning Bronco and Mr Bryant were out on the streets at 5.30am in an additional training session, with Mr Schwartz working on techniques to deal with dogs off leads who may rush up to the pair in the street.