Canine companion... Gore resident Elmer Curry and guide dog Wayne enjoy some sun shine in Gore on Monday. PHOTO: FIONA ELLIS

International Guide Dog Day might take place just once a year, but Gore resident Elmer Curry steps out with the assistance of guide dog Wayne nearly every day.

The 91-year-old retired physiotherapist has been blind for 65 years due to a hereditary condition.

The day to mark the importance of guide dogs occurred last Wednesday.

Mr Curry said the poodle was invaluable to him.

“He gives me an independence. Without him I would be absolutely lost.

“I don’t have to worry about any obstacles because he goes around them. I can find my way to the bank, the chemist, any shops I need in town.”

Wayne was a quiet but friendly dog who enjoyed greeting visitors with a lick.

However, he was vigilant while on duty.

“I don’t mind if people want to say hello to him — I drop the [harness] handle which means I’m not working him.”

He was concerned about what would happen next April, when Wayne turned 10.

At that age, Blind Foundation policy required guide dogs to retire, which meant Mr Curry would again be without a canine companion.

He waited two years for Wayne after his predecessor, Trixie, retired.

He moved around his house independently, but it would be “impossible” to get around town using only a cane, he said.

Guide dogs were not government funded, he said.

“I’ve been very appreciative of the generosity of the people of New Zealand. It’s purely by subscription that [I] have a guide dog.

Wayne was Mr Curry’s ninth dog.

He received his first one in his home country of South Africa in 1963.

“When I first received a dog I was in training for three weeks before I was allowed out on my own.”

He could now adjust to a new guide dog within a few days, he said.

The instructions for guide dogs were “pretty universal”, and so his move to New Zealand had not caused problems.

Wayne was also born overseas, in the Netherlands.

He was trained as a guide dog in Sweden before being sent to New Zealand.

“He’s a good dog. He’s never let me down.”