A 14-year-old Ballynahinch girl who’s been dreaming of having her own guide dog since childhood has turned her efforts to getting others their companion first.
Sophie Mills was born with albinism, a condition most commonly associated with pale skin, eyes and hair colour.
However, in Sophie’s case, albinism has affected her eyesight.
In dull or very bright lighting conditions, the teenager finds it hard to see at all.
And in the past two years, she has completely lost her sight six times.
“At the minute I have a cane, I can go out and about, but I don't have as much confidence cause at the end of the day, if I get to the end of a road and a car's coming and I don't see it, the cane can't pull me back - but the dog can,’ Sophie told UTV.
But despite a growing concern that her eye condition is deteriorating, Sophie has her sights set on a bigger goal – helping others.
Sophie’s mum, Marina MacGreevy said: “She’s known from day one it's not going to be her dog, but it will help somebody and give somebody that life that she's hoping to have some day.”
Since she was just six years old, Sophie has sponsored guide dogs for others who need them.
Now aged 14, she’s helped sponsor more than four puppies.
It costs over £50,000 to breed, train and support just one guide dog and without government funding, Sophie felt a responsibility to help however she could.
Now on the waiting list for her own guide dog, Sophie has taken part in training how to walk with one.
And while she’s focused on helping others up the waiting list, she can’t wait to meet her very own dog.
“If I had a guide dog, full time, of my own, I would be so confident. I would be going out every day, I wouldn't be stuck in the house… and my anxiety wouldn't be so bad.”
A guide dog would give Sophie not just confidence, but a friend she can rely on.
“She doesn't want to be this girl known as 'there's Sophie and her mum', she wants to be 'Sophie'… and I really do think this dog would make a big difference for her life.”
To find out more about sponsoring a guide dog, click here: https://www.guidedogs.org.uk/how-you-can-help/donating/sponsor-a-puppy?ds_rl=1276216&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrpTys4Py5gIVAuDtCh18VgCwEAAYASAAEgJW7PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds