22 Apr

Guide dog gets Sherwood Park man
blinded in crash back on track

Service dog Mario is a lifeline for Sherwood Park’s Jamey Wagner who was blinded in a car crash.

“I am very grateful to have a guide dog. Mario definitely opens up my city to me,” said Wagner in a news release in advance of International Guide Dog Day, April 25.

“I am not limited in distance I can travel, or feeling lost when crossing driveways. I do a lot more walking, and have a lot more independence.”

Wagner was studying electrical engineering while working for an oil company in January 2009 when his vehicle was struck by another driver who ran a stop sign. 

He was left blinded and suffering other injuries, including a mangled left leg, but left hospital after months of rehabilitation.

Wagner was learning to cope with his vision loss but his left leg was “messed up” and he had trouble walking straight, so his mobility instructor suggested a guide dog.  

Within six months of his hospital discharge, Wagner applied to Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind and was partnered with a dog in 2011. 

Now, he has Mario to guide him.

“He warmed up very fast, and we became buddies within a couple of days,” said Wagner. “He responds really well to my commands.”

The last Wednesday in April each year is recognized as International Guide Dog Day by the International Guide Dog Federation, the umbrella organization that provides training standards in 30 countries.  Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind is a founding member of the International Guide Dog Federation. 

Guide dog facts:

— Most people know that you do not pet a guide dog when it is working. However, it is even important to not say hello and ignore the dog completely if possible, so that it can focus on its work.

— Guide dogs will obey commands such as “find the stairs,” but they will lead only if instructed to do so.  The guide dog user must familiarize himself/herself with routes in advance. The dog will always navigate better in familiar environments.

— Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind operates solely through donations, as an independent registered Canadian charity. They train guide dogs and provide them free of charge to their clients.  

— Dogs are colour blind so do not see green or red lights. A guide dog will lead its owner to a curb, then sit and await further instructions. The person must decide when it is safe to cross. A dog will block the path of the person if an error in judgment is made and there is oncoming traffic.

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