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Meet Adrian Elliott and his best friend Morris
A Murray Bridge residents explains what life has been like with the vision impairment retinitis pigmentosa.
The bond between Murray Bridge’s Adrian Elliott and his dogs is like no other.
His cherished companions have been along for the ride for the past 10 years, no matter what obstacles Mr Elliott has had to face.
Being partially blind from birth, he described his congenital blindness or low vision as like having tunnel vision.
“My condition is known as retinitis pigmentosa; you can see everything in front of you, but everything above, below and around you (is) cloudy,” he said.
“It's like you’re looking through a narrow tube or a tunnel – you lose all your peripheral vision.”
Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment.
Symptoms often begin in childhood and include decreased vision at night or in low light and loss of peripheral vision.
Presently there is no effective treatment for the condition.
“As a youngster, I could see people clearly with my tunnel vision, but I struggled with reading things and probably the last 20 years or so, it’s really been deteriorating,” he said.
“Eight years back, I could see faces, footpaths and stuff like that, but I can’t now.
“As a young fella, everyone just thought I was a little clumsy.”
Born near the Cheltenham Racecourse in Adelaide, Mr Elliott and his family moved to Hawthorndene, near Blackwood in the Adelaide Hills, to support his grandfather, who had lost his beloved wife around the same time Mr Elliott was born.
“I stayed with my mum and dad and my brother and sister in Hawthorndene until I was probably about 29,” he said.
“I went to Goody Tech, played footy and cricket for Blackwood and at about 12 years of age, I recall I took up water skiing with friends.
“It was a little hit and miss, as I would try to end my turn by running up onto the bank.”
Mr Elliott found his vision was manageable during daylight hours, but as darkness fell, it was another story – “at night it used to be a struggle”.
In 1980 he and two friends bought a 10-acre orchard together at Mypolonga.
“I enjoyed the orchard work and really loved being outside in the fresh air, however, having such bad eyesight and trying to pick oranges, was a nightmare,” Mr Elliott chuckled.
“Anyhow, thankfully I met Glenys in Mypolonga and after a short 12-month courtship, we got married.
“I sold my share of the orchard and took up working in the packing shed, at what used to be the Mypolonga Co-Operative.
“After 30 years of service, I unfortunately started to bump into machinery and people, even walking in front of the odd forklift – that’s when we knew it was time for me to hang up my boots.”
Deriving its name from an Aboriginal expression meaning “cliff lookout place” Mypolonga remains a special place in Mr Elliott’s heart.
As well as being his home for more than 30 years, it was the place where his first guide dog, Halle, came along.
“It was good to still have a bit of sight when I got my first guide dog – it helped build my confidence,” he said.
“We had Halle until she retired in 2021.
“She was a first-class companion, a pretty dog, but probably not as affectionate as my current dog, Morris.
“I did have another dog for six months in between Halle and Morris, but one day he just decided he didn’t want to be a guide dog – he just stopped and said ‘no more’.”
Mr and Mrs Elliott receive much happiness and amusement from having Morris around.
“Morris listens to us like he knows exactly what we’re saying, and sometimes I’m sure he does,” Mr Elliott said.
As the expression goes, a dog is a man’s best friend – and in Mr Elliott’s circumstances, it’s easy to see why.
Mr Elliott is supported by Genuine Support Services Australia and the NDIS.
Now residing in Murray Bridge, he and his wife enjoy visiting Halle at her new retirement home and spending special moments with their grandchildren when possible.
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