THEY may have only just met, but Petar Nakov and Nemo (pictured) have the makings of a long and fruitful friendship.
Vision-impaired Mr Nakov and his new seeing-eye dog Nemo were at the Highpoint shopping centre recently as part of Nemo's training in the tricky arts of guiding.
Nemo's help means that riding escalators, crossing the road or negotiating footpaths cluttered with signs, furniture and other obstacles will become much easier for Mr Nakov.
The pair were accompanied on their excursion by Seeing Eye Dogs Australia (SEDA) trainee instructor Anna Gigliotti-Skret.
Ms Gigliotti-Skret said training took about four weeks, including time spent in SEDA's Kensington home and a visit to Mr Nakov's home in Sydney to get Nemo settled in and finish off his training in Mr Nakov's local neighbourhood.
"Nemo has all the basic skills, but when we make a match we visit the home to see what kind of environment the dog is going to be working with," she said.
"We'll be teaching Nemo the routes that Petar usually uses."
It takes SEDA two years and about $30,000 to train each dog. The organisation matches about 60 dogs and blind or vision-impaired Australians every year.
SEDA would love to expand but is struggling to find enough supporters willing to look after puppies in the first year of their lives.
Ms Gigliotti-Skret said the puppy-caring program involved volunteers caring for a puppy from eight weeks until about 12 months of age.
"At the moment we are trying to expand the program, but we're finding we just don't have enough puppy carers."
SEDA is also on the lookout for temporary carers.
To become a puppy carer or learn more about the program, call SEDA on 1800 037 773.