Fur-ever friends: Blind boy, 6, becomes best pals with his Golden Retriever ‘buddy dog’ who helps to guide him on adventures and hikes

  • Rubin Hellier-Smith, six,  who is registered blind, was matched with three-year-old Golden Retriever Vesper through Guide Dogs Cymru last autumn
  • Vesper is a buddy dog, designed to prepare children for a guide dog later in life
  • Rubin’s mum Eve, 31, said that he has ‘grown in confidence’ since getting Vesper and that the pooch has ‘changed our lives’ 

A blind six-year-old boy has become best friends with an adorable Golden Retriever who has given him the confidence to go on long walks and explore mountains with his family.

Rubin Hellier-Smith, who is registered blind, was matched with three-year-old Vesper through Guide Dogs Cymru last autumn and the pair enjoy hikes and walks in the Brecon Beacons – which is on the doorstep of their home in Crickhowell, south Wales.

With his mum Eve, 31, and sister Molly, eight, Rubin loves to explore the outdoors, with Eve explaining that the addition of Vesper to the family has seen Rubin’s confidence grow.

A blind six-year-old boy has become best friends with an adorable Golden Retriever who has given him the confidence to go on long walks and explore mountains with his family

Rubin Hellier-Smith, who is registered blind, was matched with three-year-old Vesper (pictured together) through Guide Dogs Cymru last autumn and the pair enjoy hikes and walks in the Brecon Beacons – which is on the doorstep of their home in Crickhowell, south Wales

With his mum Eve, 31, and sister Molly, eight, Rubin loves to explore the outdoors, with Eve explaining that the addition of Vesper to the family has seen Rubin’s confidence grow. Rubin and Molly are pictured with Vesper

Rubin, pictured with his sister Molly, eight, and Vesper, three,  has Nystagmus – a condition which causes involuntary, uncontrollable eye movements

Rubin has no sight in his right eye and limited vision in his left, with Vesper helping him (pictured together) 

Rubin also has a rare condition called persistent foetal vasculature which is what has caused the blindness in one eye

Eve said: ‘Rubin has Nystagmus – a condition which causes involuntary, uncontrollable eye movements. He is also registered blind.

‘He has no sight in his right eye and limited vision in his left.

‘Rubin also has a rare condition called persistent foetal vasculature which is what has caused the blindness in one eye.

‘Vesper is a buddy dog which means he is preparing Rubin for a guide dog when he is older and he really has changed our lives.’ 

Vesper is a buddy dog which means he is preparing Rubin for a guide dog when he is older

Eve said: ‘We are an adventurous family, we love to go out and explore and having Vesper has given Rubin so much more confidence’. Rubin and Vesper are pictured 

Rubin struggles with his coordination and he is wobbly on his feet. He has to rest quite often and Vesper can sense this and is always by his side. They are pictured with Molly, eight

Rubin is pictured cuddling Vesper with his sister Molly, eight, at home in south Wales

She said: ‘We are an adventurous family, we love to go out and explore and having Vesper has given Rubin so much more confidence.

‘He is never far away and is always checking that Rubin is okay. 

‘Rubin struggles with his coordination and he is wobbly on his feet. He has to rest quite often and Vesper can sense this and is always by his side.

‘Their bond is beautiful to watch, we couldn’t imagine life without Vesper in our family.’

Eve is a single mum to both Rubin and his older sister Molly who is fully sighted.

Eve is a single mum to both Rubin and his older sister Molly who is fully sighted, the family are pictured together

When Rubin was born, he appeared to be healthy but Eve had a gut instinct that something was wrong and pushed for tests that sadly showed that Rubin was blind. He got Vesper (pictured) last autumn

When Rubin was born, he appeared to be healthy but Eve had  a gut instinct that something was wrong and pushed for tests that sadly showed that Rubin was blind.

She said: ‘I knew there was something not right when he was just a few days old and he had an operation when he was one to try and correct some vision in his one eye. He has had several operations on his eyes since his first operation

‘There was one moment when my son made eye contact with me. I will never forget that.

Eve said: ‘Rubin (pictured with Molly and Vesper) is an amazing little boy’.  He goes to main stream school and he has perfect social skills. I am so proud of him

Vesper joined the family in October after Eve applied once the buddy scheme was available in her area

‘Rubin is an amazing little boy. He goes to main stream school and he has perfect social skills. I am so proud of him.

‘He always tries to keep up with his mates and he is always happy.

‘Raising awareness is so important to me. Children with visual impairments are still treated differently by other kids and adults.

‘It breaks my heart, I want people to ask about his condition and chat to us when they see us out, not walk past awkwardly or tell their children not to stare.’

Eve hopes that the relationship between Vesper and Rubin will mean that Rubin can bond well with a guide dog when he is older

Vesper joined the family in October after Eve applied once the buddy scheme was available in her area

Vesper has also helped Rubin to feel more confident around other dogs which is something he has always found daunting

Vesper joined the family in October after Eve applied once the buddy scheme was available in her area.

Eve said: ‘It only took four months from applying to having Vesper live with us. The scheme is amazing, it gives children and young people with visual impairments an incredible friendship and independence as they get older. We had lots of advice and support.

‘Vesper helped to keep all our spirits up during the winter lockdown. We took him out daily so he helped keep me motivated.

Speaking of the Buddy Dog scheme, Eve said: ‘The scheme is amazing, it gives children and young people with visual impairments an incredible friendship and independence as they get older. We had lots of advice and support’. Rubin is pictured with Vesper and Molly

Eve added: ‘He loves his long walks with us and when we are at home, he cuddles up to Rubin on the sofa. They are best friends’. Vesper and Rubin are pictured together

Eve (pictured with Rubin, Vesper, and Molly) added: ‘It would be great if Rubin could have a guide dog when he is older. It will give him the freedom to go out on his own and not have to be with an adult all the time.

‘He loves his long walks with us and when we are at home, he cuddles up to Rubin on the sofa. They are best friends.

‘Vesper has settled in better than we could have imagined, we initially had him for a trial period but he really has made himself at home.’

Vesper has also helped Rubin to feel more confident around other dogs which is something he has always found daunting.

Eve said: ‘Rubin would be very nervous of dogs in parks because they can be very overwhelming to a child with sight problems.’

Vesper and Rubin are pictured at home together, they often cuddle up on the sofa after a long walk

Eve (pictured centre) added: ‘Vesper acts like a guide dog in so many ways and he is so protective and thoughtful of Rubin and his needs. He really is wonderful.’

Praising the scheme, Eve added: ‘I really hope more people apply for the scheme, it’s changed our lives. I know some people with children with sight loss may feel nervous but the dogs are so well trained and so calming. I would urge anyone to give it a go.

Eve hopes that the relationship between Vesper and Rubin will mean that Rubin can bond well with a guide dog when he is older.

She said: ‘It would be great if Rubin could have a guide dog when he is older. It will give him the freedom to go out on his own and not have to be with an adult all the time.

‘Vesper acts like a guide dog in so many ways and he is so protective and thoughtful of Rubin and his needs. He really is wonderful.’

Eve hopes more families will join the scheme.

‘I really hope more people apply for the scheme, it’s changed our lives. I know some people with children with sight loss may feel nervous but the dogs are so well trained and so calming. I would urge anyone to give it a go.

‘Buddy dogs are so well behaved and make such a difference.’

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