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[QUOTEMaking the decision to have a baby is a tremendous responsibility – but imagine being hearing impaired and wondering how you would care for the little person about to enter your life. That is Vancouver-resident Kimberly Cadigan’s reality – and her attitude is, “Bring it on!”
Why? Because Kim has a very special helper: Buddy, a black Labrador Retriever who is also a specially trained Hearing Ear Dog (HED). Buddy is trained to alert Kim to all types of important sounds such as a crying baby or a fire alarm. Now that Kim and her husband Ted are expecting a baby this spring, they are ready for the challenge. With Buddy as her ears, Kim is excited to be a mom and is looking forward to all the challenges of parenthood with renewed confidence.
Thousands of Dog Guides allow Canadians with hearing, visual, physical or medical disabilities to live independently. These dogs open doors, retrieve objects, alert their handler to certain noises, guide their handler through the world and offer the constant companionship of a loyal friend.
For more than 20 years, Lions Foundation of Canada has been training Dog Guides to serve the needs of Canadians with a range of disabilities. While the cost of placing and training a Dog Guide is approximately $20,000, Dog Guides are provided by the Lions Foundation at no charge. To date, more than 1,000 Canadians from coast to coast, ranging in age from eight to 84, have received a Dog Guide.
Kim and Buddy are an excellent example of a successful partnership – and here are four more inspirational tales about hard-working and well-loved Dog Guides.
Oakley and Arthur: Popular pair in London, Ontario
Arthur, an 82-year-old World War II veteran, lost his vision due to macular degeneration a few years ago. Prior to losing his vision, Arthur was enjoying his retirement and was a frequent fixture out and about in London. After the initial loss of his vision, Arthur was hesitant to venture out and became concerned he would not be able to enjoy his golden years to the fullest.
Determined to regain his independence, Arthur applied and was accepted to the Canine Vision Canada Dog Guide program in 2002. He was partnered with Oakley, a black Labrador Retriever, and has been on the move ever since. Thanks to Oakley, Arthur is once again a man about town – frequently traveling on public transit throughout London on his daily adventures.
Ice melts Megan’s heart – and opens doors for her too
Megan is 25 years old and a student at the University of Saskatchewan. Cerebral palsy requires Megan to use a power wheelchair, but hasn’t slowed her down – she lives on her own and is more independent than ever thanks to her Dog Guide, Ice.
Megan and Ice, a black Labrador Retriever, graduated from the Special Skills Dogs (SSD) of Canada program in 2005. Megan applied for a SSD Dog Guide to help her with fetching items, opening doors, and providing her with peace of mind, and Ice has provided exactly that. He accompanies Megan wherever she goes and is a perfect gentleman, always opening the door for her.
Special Skills Dog Oswald Partners with Star Student
David and Oswald, a black Labrador Retriever, graduated from the Special Skills Dogs (SSD) of Canada program in 2005. David’s exceptional grades and community involvement recently earned him the distinction of “Calgary Herald Student of the Year.” A college student currently studying public relations, 18-year-old David has cerebral palsy and requires the use of a power wheelchair.
Since teaming up with Oswald, David’s independence has increased. He is a young man with an active school and social life, and relies on Oswald to help with various tasks including getting in and out of his wheelchair, picking up dropped items and opening doors. Working as a team, David and Oswald are sure to reach new heights together.
Brenda and BJ Break Down Barriers
For more than 30 years, Brenda has been without vision. Now 38-years-old and a mother of two, Brenda has also become well-known in her community for raising awareness about the important work of Dog Guides.
After teaming up with BJ, a German Shepherd/Husky mix, and graduating from the Canine Vision Canada (CVC) program in 2003, Brenda returned home to find some resistance to her canine companion. Never one to shy way from a challenge, Brenda has become an advocate for Dog Guides and spends many hours educating members of her community about how to treat and accommodate service dogs, such as BJ. Brenda enjoys an active life, and relies on local transportation systems in Halifax, such as the ferry and bus to get around town; therefore, she required a safe alternative and BJ is just that.
Oakley, Ice, Oswald, BJ and Buddy are all graduates of the training programs administered by Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. The foundation does not receive any government funding, so it must rely solely on fundraising activities, corporate sponsorships and private donations to support the Dog Guide training programs.