A small but dedicated group of walkers took their canine friends for a five-km walk here Sunday to raise money for dog guides.
Seven locals and their dogs participated in the annual Lions Foundation of Canada Purina Walk for Dog Guides, raising $1,000.
The local Voyageur Lions Club will top off the funds to contribute a total of $1,500 to the cause.
A dog guide is highly trained from a puppy to be able to assist people with visual or hearing impairments, medical or physical disabilities, those at risk of seizures, and children with autism.
Training for a dog costs about $20,000 but there is no cost to those who qualify for a dog guide through the Lions Foundation.
“You can’t expect the person to pay for the dog because they’re usually not in the position to do that,” noted Voyageur Lions Club member Bill Michl.
He said getting a dog guide is not as simple as applying and receiving a smart puppy.
Not only do the dog and the person need to be a good match, but the prospective dog guide owner must be able to perform daily tasks without the dog, in case he or she is in a situation without one.
Lions Foundation of Canada dog guides are bred at its facility in Breslau, Ont., then placed in foster homes at around eight weeks of age.
In the foster home, they get used to being around people and are given house-training and obedience lessons, as well as getting acquainted with public transportation and office environments.
After a year spent with the foster family, puppies return to the training school in Oakville, where they are screened for physical soundness and temperament before entering the training program.
Locally, there is one person waiting to be matched with a dog guide, Michl noted, adding he hopes future years will see even more fundraising here.
“We’d like to make [the walk] bigger because it’s very important,” Michl stressed.
“There’s a waiting list for dogs because there’s more people out there that need dogs.”
Jessica Shoemaker joined the walk for the first time this year.
“It was a beautiful day and it was a good walk, and I think my dog’s tired so mission accomplished,” she remarked.
The top fundraisers in this, the sixth year of the walk locally, were Sharon Larocque ($140.55) and Scott Jolicoeur ($140.65).
Additional prizes were awarded for the tallest, shortest, oldest, and youngest dogs, as well as to the dogs with the longest and shortest tails, and the best bark.
The walk is held annually in more than 200 communities across Canada and has raised more than $8 million for dog guides since its start in 1985, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the program.