14 Jun

With Spring and more people out and about you may also notice more service dogs and guide dogs in training out and about. We caught up with Manotick-based Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind to find out how they have been faring during the pandemic.

Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind marked its 37th anniversary on January 12, 2021. The organization has successfully trained and supported over 900 guide dog teams over the years, from the National Training Centre located right here in Manotick.

A proudly Canadian organization, providing Canadian bred and trained guide dogs, Canadian Guide Dogs has changed the lives of Canadians by improving their safety, freedom, and independence. Using a well-established breeding program ensures a quantity and quality of dogs suitable to the job and enables the continuance of producing and training guide dogs during the pandemic.

All of the organization’s funding comes from Canada, relying heavily on donations, as there is no government funding for the program, and is then spent here in Canada, fulfilling the mission of supporting Canadians.

Despite the numerous unforeseen challenges, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind continued to successfully place guide dogs in 2020. This past year, the group matched and partnered guide dog teams across the country, from British Columbia all the way to New Brunswick. Understanding the need for the services, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind only restricted placement of new teams for the first two months of the pandemic while they worked to put in place new procedures to keep everyone safe. These procedures continue to be updated as new information becomes available, adhering to or exceeding public health guidelines and laws.

Thanks to thirty-seven years of proven success, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind has been able to continue with its mandate and ensure that Canadians who require guide dogs can still get them.

Michael Hodgins from nearby Shawville, and his guide dog Tosca, are one of the teams who graduated in 2020. Hodgins says, “I’m in a white world, not a dark world. Everything’s white to me, I have no focus. I can see some shades of colours, but it’s like someone threw a white blanket over my face. When I put the harness on my guide dog, it’s like a flicking a light switch. If I didn’t have a guide dog, I’d be straining, going around with a cane, trying to feel my way, or walking on someone’s elbow. This way I can go out by myself and I don’t have to hang on to someone. We’re partners, and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind has given me independence.”