Darren Bone of Leongatha and his trusty guide dog Zinette.

THOUGH her obedience can be “questionable” at times, there’s no doubt Zinette the three-year-old black Labrador is Darren Bone’s best mate.
The pair go everywhere together – not just around their home town of Leongatha but on train, plane and bus trips as far as Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth.
Zinette’s exceptional targeting skills help Darren, who’s been legally blind since birth, safely get from A to B, enhancing his mobility and independence in a way that no other aid can.
But that’s not all he had to thank Zinette for on International Guide Dog Day last week.
Singling out her “very outgoing, very excitable” nature, Darren joined guide dog handlers across the world in celebrating the many benefits these trusted canine companions bring to their humans’ lives, which go well beyond facilitating the practical tasks of daily living.
“She’s great company; she gives a lot of love and affection, which is great for you in life, especially your mind and mental condition,” he said.
“She’s very strong minded and she does have her moments, as every dog does. She’s made herself sick eating green tomatoes from the veggie garden – she’ll eat anything, she’s a food machine.
“But she’s absolutely my best mate. She’s always wanting to get out and walk, so she keeps me active. We love walking on the [Great Southern] Rail Trail.”
As well as recognising the important work of organisations such as Guide Dogs Victoria, Darren took International Guide Dog Day as an opportunity to remind the community to respect guide dogs and their handlers when they’re out and about.
“That’s a really big thing for people to understand – not to attempt to touch or talk to a guide dog while they’re ‘working’,” he said.
Guide Dogs Victoria explains that patting can be confusing and distracting for guide dogs at work.
“As a basic rule, normal manners apply. If you want to speak to a person about their dog, or engage with the dog itself, it is best to speak to the owner first,” their website advises.