Labrador Guide Dog O'Hara and Her Human Have Formed the Perfect Partnership
It was pretty clear during their first meeting that O'Hara was the dog for Bella Savannah.
Savannah, who suffers from Stargardt disease and has lost much of her sight, was meeting different guide dogs, seeing which would make the best partner. She met O'Hara, a "sweet little angel," and felt a slightly wiggly butt. She know O'Hara was the one, and they snuggled on the floor the next day and "fell in love with each other."
They'll soon graduate college together. Along the way, Savannah realized O'Hara, an English Labrador retriever, not only helped her physically navigate her world. She also helped Savannah accept who she is.
"With O'Hara I don't have to be afraid of my disability, and she really helps me embrace it and realize that, yeah, I'm blind. That's not everything about who I am," she says.
Her eye doctor suggested a guide dog, thinking a smart dog like O'Hara would be more useful than a cane. Savannah's disease, a rare, genetic affliction, occurs when fatty material consolidates and on the macula, the part of the retina that helps us see "sharp, central vision," according to the National Eye Institute.
For Savannah, it means she can't see people's or objects' defined outlines, and she can no longer see at night. That's where O'Hara comes in. She makes sure Savannah doesn't collide with anything or trip as she walks—and that includes when the two are working in the laboratory (Savannah is a biology major).
"Her job, essentially, is to be my eyes," Savannah says.
And she's great at it. When her harness is put on, O'Hara goes into a calm, focused "boss-lady mode." (When the harness comes off, O'Hara becomes more playful and puppy-like—kind of like how we are after work.)
The pair began college in 2018, and soon O'Hara gained online fame after donning her protective laboratory equipment (adorable safety googles!) and starring in TikTok videos, earning an apt nickname: the Goodest Girl in STEM. She's even starred in a children's book Savannah wrote: O'Hara: The Tail of a Good Pup.
"She finds happiness in helping me and the fact that she knows she's helping me," Savannah says.
After years of playtime, snowstorm snuggles, and studying, they're set to graduate soon, Savannah with a degree in biology. But don't worry: O'Hara is ready for graduation day, too, with her own cap and gown. Savannah, of course, credits the hard work of her "Laboratory retriever" for helping her finish her studies.
"By being with O'Hara, I have sort of refound my purpose and I've also, in turn, helped her fulfill hers," she says.