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Guide dog Jolly is a 'life changer' for blind teenager Harry Lavender

By Emma Grafton-Williams

Meet Jolly, the black labrador-cross who has changed the life of Harry Lavender, the youngest owner of a guide dog in Kent.

Her love and attention has helped the teenager grow in confidence in the classroom and on the cricket field – although she has to stay in the pavilion when he goes out to bat.

Now Harry, 16, from Greenhill, Herne Bay, has been nominated for a national award.

Harry plays for Kent Spitfires VI (Visually Impaired) Cricket Club.
Harry plays for Kent Spitfires VI (Visually Impaired) Cricket Club.

He has been selected for the Young Person’s Achievement prize which will be handed to one of three finalists at this year’s national Guide Dogs Annual Awards in London.

He was born with double vision, sensitivity to light and severe body dyspraxia, and has an eye condition called Irlen syndrome.

Harry’s mum, Beverley, said she knew he had problems with his vision but it was not until he was 10 that he explained exactly what he saw.

She said: “We knew he was visually impaired but not how bad. It wasn’t until 10-and-a-half he finally told the optician what he saw.

“To him it was normal. He has permanent double vision and sees two of everything.”

A pupil at the Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs, Harry faced many challenges as a youngster. He clung to his mum, did not interact with pupils at school and would not take part in any physical activities or sports.

After some initial long-cane training, Harry was matched with black lab-retriever cross Jolly in 2015, and the animal “changed his life.”

Jolly is always by Harry's side
Jolly is always by Harry's side

She has helped him to travel independently, enjoy school with friends and even take up sport. His confidence as grown so much that he has become a talented cricketer, being named “most improved player” at Kent Spitfires VI (Visually Impaired) Cricket Club.

He has also recently completed work experience at an IT company.

Jolly's become the ice-breaker – walking around school with a guide dog is very cool. Before no one knew who Harry was and now they do. It’s been life changing...” - Beverley, Harry's mum

Beverley, 50, said: “Now he’s got Jolly people talk to him.

“Jolly is a companion. The first time he went out on his own I asked him how he felt – he said ‘I’m normal now, I can go wherever I want when I want’.

“We have seen a huge change in Harry. His confidence has grown and she has changed him as person.”

The teenager also visits local Scout and Girl Guide groups to give talks about how his guide dog has helped him.

The awards were due to take place yesterday (Wednesday) at the Hurlingham Club in London.

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