Saskatchewan has four new residents, and their goal is to help facilitate those who are blind or partially sighted.
“We’ve never had guide dogs raised here before, so it’s very exciting for us,” said Christall Beaudry, executive director of CNIB Saskatchewan.
Bred in Australia — the dogs, named Percy, Wallace, Indy and Lulu — are golden retriever/labrador retriever crosses.
“They’ll be here, with puppy raisers that are volunteers in Saskatchewan, for 12-15 months,” she said, “and then go on to their formal training and be matched with their handlers.”
Through their time living with volunteers, they’ll learn to socialize and basic skills like obedience commands and routines.
Beaudry said, after that, the formal training to become a guide dog will include “avoiding obstacles, stopping at curbs and steps or negotiating traffic.”
The cost to raise the dogs is $50,000, which comes from donations. Each dog has been sponsored by a donor in the province.
“When they’re fully trained, they’ll be a guide dog for somebody who has sight loss,” explained Beaudry. “Getting them to and from locations, finding a restroom in a restaurant, those are the kinds of things a guide dog helps them with.”
“It’s really about independence and safety for someone who is blind or partially sighted. A guide dog provides that mobility and independence.”
WATCH (May 24, 2019): Training the next generation of guide dogs
The handler provides directional commands, according to CNIB, and the guide dog ensures the duo’s safety. If necessary, the dog disobeys unsafe commands.
Beaudry said when a dog is working, they are doing just that and are not to be touched.
“Harness on means hands-off, which we say with guide dogs,” she said. “You’ll see the dogs around the city with a little vest that says guide dog in training.”