Some of Erin’s finest fundraisers will be straining at the leash when their dogs take them for a walk on Sunday, May 31. The Erin and District Lions Club is hosting its first National Dog Guide Walk on the Elora Cataract Trailway, starting at Centre 2000.
There will be swag bags for the dogs in attendance and a free barbecue for the human participants. Sign in starts at 11 am and the walk is at 12 noon.
Organizer Wendy Parr says the idea is to create a fun social event, to raise money and inform people about the training of dogs to support people with various disabilities.
The goal is to get at least 100 walkers and raise $25,000 – the amount it takes to train one dog for its special duties. All of the funds will go directly to the training of dogs, which are provided at no cost to qualified applicants by the Lions Foundation of Canada.
For more information, go to www.purinawalkfordogguides.com. Click on “Find a Walk” and then to the Erin page, where people can register, make an immediate donation or create a team.
Registration can be done at the event as well, and you don’t have to have a dog to go on the walk. The plan is to walk to Winston Churchill Blvd. and back, a round trip of about 4 km, but participants are welcome to do a shorter section if they wish.
More than 200 similar walks are happening on the same day across Canada, a tradition that started 30 years ago. Parr had attended the one in Fergus in previous years, and had often thought it would be great to organize one in Erin.
With the support of the Erin Lions, she has been busy promoting the event to local businesses and schools. Helping her is Bonnie Gagnon, a local foster mum for prospective guides, currently caring for Garbo, a 9-month-old black lab.
Prior to their formal training, puppies are sent to foster families who house-train them, teach them manners and basic obedience, expose them to many different situations and get them used to the distractions of public areas such as streets and malls. Nestlé Purina PetCare donates all food and the Lions Foundation covers routine veterinary expenses.
For nearly 100 years, Lions Clubs around the world have supported projects to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and provide eye health care. The Lions Foundation operates a dog training centre in Oakville, plus a breeding and training facility in Breslau.
The program started out with only canine vision dogs, but now has expanded to include hearing ear dogs for the deaf, seizure response dogs for those with epilepsy, service dogs for other physical disabilities, autism assistance dogs and diabetic alert dogs.
Once fully trained over two years, the dog is matched with its handler who then spends one to four weeks at the Oakville facility, learning how to handle, trust and bond with their new Dog Guide. Breeds commonly used are Labrador Retrievers, Poodles (for those who are allergic to most dogs) and Golden Retrievers.
The trained dogs give their handlers the confidence to navigate obstacles in public areas and help them pursue education, careers and community participation.
More information about the work of the Lions Foundation is available at www.dogguides.com.