However, when owner Gene Gi' />

Opo the golden labrador is named after Opononi's famous dolphin, and she's every bit as bouncy and friendly as her namesake.
However, when owner Gene Gibson of Stratford slips her harness over her head, the energetic youngster is instantly calm, focused and ready for work.
``It's like flicking a switch,'' says Gene.
He's had Opo as his guide dog for about six weeks. Hurricane, his previous dog, is now officially retired.
Getting a new guide dog means going back to basics with the training for a few weeks, as every dog is different and it takes time to form a close rapport and come to trust a new dog, Gene says.
Opo is not quite two years old. For her first year or so, she was socialised by a puppy walker, then she moved into training for her role at the national guide dog centre. There, she learned to guide her handler across roads, around obstacles, up and down stairs, on buses and through traffic. Once she was qualified, she was matched with Gene and the two of them had further instruction under a trainer's watchful eye as they learned to work together.
As well as getting to know her and learning to rely on his new dog, Gene has had to teach her his regular routes _ shops and places he goes to often. Sometimes he gives her a small treat when she gets to a shop, and this ensures she'll go back happily the next time, he says.
Meanwhile, Gene and his wife, Narelle, opted to keep Hurricane as a pet. She has settled happily into retirement, while Opo handles the tasks of walking to town, shopping and the other activities Gene needs her for.
At 10 years old, Hurricane has been slowing up for a while. Gene says he was having to walk at ``Nana speed'' to avoid tiring her out, and one day she sat down part way to town and wouldn't get up until he told her to take him home.
``She knows she can't walk the distance to town any more, and she's starting to get
cataracts. I would have been walking behind a blind dog after a while,'' he says.