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Freedom, independence and a lifelong partnership: The power of a guide dog

CNIB Saskatchewan kicks off a new campaign to educate people about the dangers of distracting working guide dogs.
. File / Global News

When a decorated police dog died of a sudden illness this week, the outpouring of grief and support from his fellow officers showed just how close the bond can be between a working dog and his or her humans.

The police force, however, isn’t the only place a dog-with-a-job can make a lifelong difference to the community.

Diane Bergeron, vice-president of engagement and international affairs at CNIB, told 680 CJOB about the emotional impact a guide dog can have.

READ MORE: Winnipeg police dog Banner dies, saluted by WPS members

Bergeron said she recently retired her longtime guide dog Lucy, and although the animal will be remaining with the family and enjoying her golden years, there’s a lot of emotion connected to the bond they shared.

“Even just retiring her, you go through all of the stages of grief, even though she’s staying with the family, because it’s the breaking of a bond,” she said.

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“Even when they’re not leaving us through illness and passing, just the separation of that relationship is quite devastating.”

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Bergeron has a new dog, Carla, taking over Lucy’s role, but due to the essential position a guide dog has in the life of a visually-impaired person, she said it takes time to build a partnership.

“Even though I’ve got Carla now with me, we need to develop the bond. We need to have a good year together before we’re a perfect team together.”

A guide dog, she said, is so much more than just a pet. The dog can give her freedom and independence.

“I joke with my husband all the time, and say I love him dearly… but he doesn’t dedicate 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year to wake up at any moment I need him. My dog does.

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“It’s such a close bond, such a close relationship, so the loss is like losing a limb or like losing your sight again.”

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