Clayton Mack noticed something was wrong.
It was about 12 years ago when his son Ty dropped his baby bottle on a cream-colored rug about the color of the bottle. Mack couldn’t see the bottle. Then there were more clues that his eyesight was failing. He got into a few minor car accidents, and fortunately no one was hurt. At one point his side mirror clipped a woman who was crossing the street.
That was the last straw.
“I didn’t see her,” recalled Mack, a Canandaigua resident and varsity assistant wrestling coach at Marcus Whitman.
Mack was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which is a rare genetic disorder with symptoms that include difficulty seeing at night and loss of side vision. For a long time now — until this past January — Mack had relied on a sight stick to get around and did the best he could adjusting to life without being able to drive or work in his profession. Mack had been a master mechanic at Ontario Honda. It wasn’t easy giving up a good job and navigating the world partially blind. The prognosis: his sight would continue to deteriorate and he could eventually become completely blind.
At his home on Route 21 this week, with his guide dog Eddie listening intently from inside a big crate topped with a basket of toys, Mack talked about the recent turnaround in his life. It began when he met folks with Guiding Eyes for the Blind during a visit to a local farmers market. A nonprofit guide dog school based in Yorktown Heights, Westchester County, the school provides superbly bred and trained dogs to people who are blind or visually impaired.
“Our dogs are known for their exceptional temperaments and success at helping people gain independence and to expand their horizons …” the organization states. Mack discovered that’s true. After first meeting with people from Guiding Eyes at his home, where they assessed his lifestyle and surroundings, he attended the three-week training at the school. Paired with Eddie, a two-year-old black lab, Mack said they were from the start perfectly matched.