The natural instincts of dogs to guide, guard and protect – and their faithful companionship –  was harnessed even before the inception of Guide Dogs.

Years before Guide Dogs came to Australia a little dog called Regio took it upon himself to take up the mantle of guide and protector. Here’s Regio’s heartwarming story.

During 1940, in the aftermath of the war in the Pacific, Winifred Fauth went to the highlands of New Guinea where her husband was assisting the missionary to rebuild his church.  There she encountered a little girl called Kupe who was blind and had deformed ankles.  Winifred (or Mrs Bunty as she became known to the locals) desperately wanted to help this little girl and enlisted the help orthopaedic specialist and hospital in Sydney with the hope of improving Kupe’s ability to walk.

Sadly this was not to be. In those days highland natives were not allowed to go down under 5000ft due to malaria.  However Kupe was a happy little girl who was always laughing.  She did not know that she was disabled as she could not see how the other children walked. She had never had any sight and so she did not know that she was blind. Read more from Winifred:

Regio had been sent to us from Madang. Regio was handsome and we loved him and he loved us. My dog Regio was my faithful companion (everyone knew when I was having a shower by Regio outside the shower-room door).  I started taking Kupe for walks after school and Regio would always accompany us; the child clinging to his neck with one hand and clasping mine with the other.  Despite her heartbreaking disabilities she was a joy to be with, her joy came from the ‘fewness’ of her wants.

Regio was what we called a “pig dog” as his work was to see that the pigs did not get into and root up the vegetable gardens.  He was adept at this, his size and his bark would frighten any pig looking for a cheap meal.  I never knew what breed he was, part Alsatian but part bitzer.  He took control of Kupe – he seemed to sense her need for protection and I fostered this loyalty.  He would nudge her away from a big stone on the road and give a little woof when we came to a steam.

They understood each other, this dog and child.  He only understood Pidgin – that is the language I was teaching in my school.  Later I needed only to say “Kupe e cum” and he would bound off, tail wagging, and return grinning with the child holding on to his neck.

If he saw her straying too near the airstrip he would nudge her onto the roadway.  When a plane went overhead he would look to see where Kupe was.  It was his job to chase the horses off the strip when a plane was coming in to land and in his opinion this applied to Kupe too!!  I didn’t know that dogs could be trained to guide the vision impaired but what Regio lacked in training he made up for in love and devotion.  I achieved much with him through perseverence and confidence in his ability.

This untrained guide dog had all the protective instincts.  Properly trained what a dog he could have been!!

Story from Faithfully Theirs newsletter June 1969.