30 Apr

Be patient with guide dogs during pandemic:
Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Guide dogs are used by people who are visually impaired to assist them in day to day life. Physical distancing due to COVID-19 has introduced new challenges for Ottawa residents with a guide dog.

Donna Tessier is legally blind. She uses a guide dog. “She’s a huge help. I would not go out of the house nearly as much as I do,” Tessier tells CTV News Ottawa. Her guide dog’s name is Xaria, and she helps Tessier to get around. “She gives me so much freedom and reduces the stress when I’m walking… whether it’s staying on the sidewalks, not go into the road, find the step, find the door. There’s all kinds of things that she’s trained to help me locate and to stay safe.”

Tessier says that using a guide dog during COVID-19 and physical distancing does have its challenges. She’s fortunate that friends and family can bring her groceries, but not everyone with guide dogs has that option. “Lining up at the door way of a store right now my dog is trained to go the door, not to line up six feet apart from people. We would just truck on right to the door and it would look like we’re trying to jump the que,” said Tessier.

Steven Doucette is with the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, and says that the guide dogs aren’t trained to understand physical distancing. “A guide dog is trained to get through very narrow aisle ways and be able to navigate around things in a store – so if you have a couple of people six feet apart, the dog won’t realize I can’t go there, they will think wow, there’s a gap of six feet, that’s perfect,” said Doucette. “I can fit through there and get to where I need to go. So just be patient with people with guide dogs.”

So what do you do if you see someone with a guide dog? Tessier asks for your help,

“Know that in this situation, when we need to keep physical distancing that they give me a wide berth – that they be the ones that initiate going around me and my dog.”

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