Guide Dogs with Paul Castle and Mr. Maple
It’s not everyday that you meet a professional artist with vision impairment. Paul Castle may be limited in sight, but that does not keep him from living a vibrant and fulfilling life. In fact, he is known to his 100,000+ Instagram followers as a talented inspiration and accomplished artist whose creations are as close to perfect as 20/20 vision. Sometimes stealing the show, however, is Castle’s loyal and loving guide dog. We reached out to Paul to learn more about his journey to become a guide dog owner, the qualifications required, and the impact that his dog has had on his safety and wellbeing.
Paul did not approach the idea of a guide dog until he was in his 20s, despite experiencing vision loss since childhood. Diagnosed with a progressive eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa at the age of 16, Castle struggles to see the peripherals of his vision and can detect next to nothing in low light. He, like many who are not considered fully blind but are visually impaired, questioned for years if he would qualify for a guide dog. Using a cane to navigate his college campus, Castle struggled to accept the social stigma that came with it. He also found it difficult to move comfortably with a cane; often bumping into objects or even getting stuck on obstacles in his path.
“It’s a visual impairment, but it becomes a visible disability once people can see you with your cane… A lot of people who have visual impairments that are progressive like mine, they really struggle to know when to really get that help.”
After years spent with a cane, Paul decided to apply for a guide dog with Guide Dogs for the Blind and it’s plain to say that his life has dramatically improved since. He made only one request: that his dog be light in coat color so he would be able to see it in low light. After spending some time on a waiting list, Paul was informed by Guide Dogs for the Blind that they had the perfect match for him. And since then, he and his guide, Mr. Maple, have been strolling the streets of Seattle with ease and confidence.
“I can do so many things now that I couldn’t do before, even with my cane. I mentioned that there was some stigma around my cane and being out in public, and now I just feel so proud to be with this beautiful dog.”
Mr. Maple certainly feels proud of his job, too, as depicted by his contagious smile and acute alertness in Paul’s social posts. Always prepared to step into action and assist Paul when needed, this trusty yellow lab has given his paired owner much more than companionship. Mr. Maple serves as a prime example of the sharp skills required to fill service roles and the positive impact that guide dogs can have not only on their owner’s depth perception and sight, but also their emotional and mental health.
“To be able to just freely leave my home, and go anywhere with confidence; without the fear, intimidation, and anxiety I used to feel, despite having less vision now than I ever have in my whole life… I feel like I can do more now than I have ever been able to do.”
To view the full interview with Paul, please visit our YouTube Channel.
To learn more about Paul, his work as an artist, and his experiences with Mr. Maple, follow him on Instagram: @paulcastlestudio & @matthewandpaul.
Special thanks to Paul Castle and Mr. Maple for sharing their story with us!