Competitive swimming helped Anastasia Pagonis of New York find her smile again after her world changed forever. But it was an adorable Labrador retriever named Radar who gave her back her freedom!
At 16 years old, the blind Paralympic athlete has some impressive achievements, including winning two gold medals at the World Para Swimming World Series in Australia. And with her new partner by her side, she’s preparing for another victory!
Anastasia was 14 when she began losing her vision. Just two months later, she was completely blind and consumed by anxiety and depression. Thankfully, she found her “happy place” in her newly-discovered passion for swimming.
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Around the same time in 2018, the New York Islanders welcomed an adorable puppy named Radar into their fold! The NHL team had partnered with the Guide Dog Foundation to raise their first “Puppy with a Purpose,” who would go on to assist a visually-impaired child.
Two years later, Anastasia’s life changed for the better when Radar officially became her guide dog in August! While the Islanders were sad to see him go, they were thrilled to have helped the teen in such a huge way.
Today, the inseparable pair is at the U.S. Olympic Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Anastasia is gearing up to compete in the 2021 Paralympics in Tokyo. The Islanders can’t wait to cheer her (and Radar) on!
“I could tell it was the right match when they met,” Ann Rina, the team’s senior director of community relations, told Today. “We wish them great luck over in Tokyo. Not only is Radar representing the U.S. in Tokyo, but he’s representing the Islanders too.”
Anastasia and Radar may have only been together for a month, but she can’t imagine not having him around. Not only does he make life easier to navigate, but he’s also become her best friend!
“Having Radar has just given me so much independence, and I’m literally in love with him. He’s the best thing ever,” Anastasia said. “We’re a match made in heaven.”
What a good boy! We’re so happy Anastasia has Radar as her guiding light. These two make the perfect team!
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