They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but for Pete Bungay, his four-legged friend Thomas, is his lifeline.

Pete has a hereditary degenerative eye condition called Retinitus Pigmentosa which means he suffers with extreme tunnel vision and Thomas is his guide dog.

“I can see what’s directly in front of me but nothing to the left or the right,” he explains.

Pete, who lives with his wife and two young daughters in Christchurch, is one of five boys and two of his brothers have the condition.

“None of us really knew anything about it until we were in our 20s – we just thought we had bad eyesight,” Pete explains.

“The first time it hit me was when I went to the optician and he told me I had to stop driving straight away because I had no field of vision.

“It was devastating. I had to find another job which didn’t involve driving but in 2006 I had two cataracts which had to be removed which made my tunnel vision even worse and I was registered blind.”

Pete applied for thousands of jobs over the following three years and said it felt as though all the doors were closing in on him. “It was really soul destroying. I knew I had to do something to move forward. I decided I needed something I could do from home and then a conversation with my wife about jewellery gave me the idea to try making my own and Mango Fizz Creations was born.”

Now his creations, made out of polymer clay, are sold at craft fairs and some independent stores throughout Dorset.

“I used to paint as a hobby so I was able to incorporate some of those skills into making things like bracelets, earrings and brooches.”

But although he was making a living, he didn’t have a life outside the home.

“It got to the point where my vision was so bad I wasn’t going out at all. My youngest daughter had started school and I couldn’t take her anymore. The furthest I would go without anyone with me was to the corner shop.”

After much consideration, Pete decided to apply for a guide dog to help with his mobility.

“One of my brothers had a guide dog and I could see the difference it had made to his life. The application process is very thorough and takes about nine months to make sure it is the right option for you and there can be up to a two year wait.”

However Pete was fortunate to be matched with a black Labrador called Thomas within four weeks.

“I just couldn’t believe my luck,” says Pete.

“Thomas has given me independence and freedom. I’ve spent the last few years relying on my wife, but I feel I have got my life back.”

Now Pete is helping to organise a charity ball for Dorset Guide Dogs at the Sandbanks Hotel in Poole on Friday October 10 from 7pm. Tickets are £50 each or a table of ten for £450. Guide Dogs Week runs from October 4-12.

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