Meet O'Hara the Guide Dog, a Viral TikTok Star and 'the Goodest Girl in STEM'
Not all heroes wear goggles, but this service dog sure does. Meet O'Hara, "the goodest girl in STEM" and guide dog for Isabella Savannah, a senior college student studying biology. Also known as Bella & O'Hara on their popular TikTok account, not only does this super talented Labrador retriever assist Bella with everyday tasks like navigating campus—she also assists in, well, labs.
A recent viral TikTok from Bella, who's lost most of her sight to a genetic disease, shows how the two make a perfect pair. The video has racked up over 6 million views, and it adorably starts with a shot of O'Hara in a science laboratory geared up with protective booties, her service harness, and safety goggles. (Or should we say... doggles?)
"Wanna see what a Labrador-y retriever looks like?" Bella asks as the camera pans to O'Hara in all her protective gear, wagging her tail in the middle of the classroom. And while she may waddle just a bit in all that PPE, O'Hara's special equipment—including her adorable goggles—help keep her safe while she's in the lab and protect her from accidental spills. "She would never be put in a situation where it would be too dangerous for her to be there," Bella explains.
If you've ever tried to squeeze your pup into a cute Halloween costume just to be disappointed when they refuse to wear it, you might be wondering how she got so comfortable with all her safety gear.
"I never want to force her to get into any of her equipment," Bella tells Daily Paws. Instead, she holds the doggie goggles out for O'Hara to walk into, ensuring she's comfortable and maintains some control in the situation. She then gets a "high-value" treat—something like freeze-dried chicken, not just any old biscuit!—to create a positive association with the equipment.
After she's all geared up, Bella says that O'Hara spends most of the lab resting at Bella's feet. But don't be fooled—this genius pooch is still working. If Bella needs her, O'Hara is on duty and ready to jump into action. That means no petting from strangers, no matter how relaxed or adorable the pup looks.
The dynamic duo has had its fair share of viral content on her TikTok, where Bella posts regularly to the delight of nearly 500K followers about how the O'Hara helps her navigate daily life. The duo walks to class from the dorms where they live, and Bella explains in a recent video that the pooch was specially trained to problem solve by Guiding Eyes for the Blind, meaning she can make decisions on the fly that will keep Bella safe.
"She takes my commands but she's also able to make her own decisions and her own choices of what would be safest for us as a team," Bella explains.
Bella has Stargardt disease, a genetic eye disorder that causes vision loss. She first starting losing her sight at age 6 and was declared blind by age 11. Now 22, she says she's sufficiently independent thanks in part to O'Hara's help.
"She's opened up my world basically and has given me a sense of independence that I never felt when just using my white cane," Bella says. "A cane can only do so much because a cane doesn't have eyes, but a dog does."
Beyond sharing truths like these on TikTok, Bella has also written a children's book called O'Hara: The Tail of a Good Pup. (Don't worry, the sequel O'Hara: The Goodest Girl in STEM is already in the works!)
Between honors-level biology courses, speaking engagements, and authoring two books, O'Hara and Bella stay pretty busy around campus. Still, Bella finds the time to have a little fun once they're back at the dorms so that O'Hara has downtime to just be a dog.
"Even if I only have five minutes to hang out in my dorm room between classes, I try to make sure she gets back here and gets to play," Bella says. "They love working, but you can love your job and still need downtime for yourself."