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21 March, 2019

Guide Dog Graduation Ceremony in Wollongong

Five graduating Guide Dogs lying down next to each other on the grass

Five up-and-coming Guide Dogs were presented with their very first harness at a special Guide Dog NSW/ACT ceremony in Wollongong. 

The celebration marked the conclusion of intensive training for the life-changing Guide Dogs that will soon be matched with a person who is blind or has sight loss.

The five future Guide Dogs include two black dogs named Harry B and Lady, and three yellow dogs named Odin, Jane and Banner. Each dog has spent five months undergoing intensive training at the Guide Dog Centre learning the skills to guide a person with sight loss safely.

“We have a wonderful group of graduating Guide Dogs who will soon be matched with a person in the community who has sight loss and is waiting for a Guide Dog. Once they are matched, we spend several weeks working closely with the person and their Guide Dog to ensure they form a strong bond of trust, and the handler has knowledge and skills to work with and care for the dog,” said Eddie Sullivan, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Training and Dog Supply Manager.

Those who attended the special presentation in Newcastle had the opportunity to watch the Guide Dogs demonstrate their skills, enjoy a Puppy Pre-School session, meet a new litter of Guide Dog puppies and hear from Guide Dog handlers about how their lives have changed for the better.

Guide Dog handler, Kimberlee Brooker, who is a motivational speaker for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, spoke about the positive impact her Guide Dog Toffee has made in her life. 

"I couldn't imagine my life without Toffee," Kimberlee said. "She has given me so much more confidence to travel and be independent. Not only does she help guide me, but she is such great company."

Local Wollongong and Illawarra-based Guide Dog NSW/ACT clients and supporters were also present at the special event.

Before undergoing intensive training at the Guide Dogs Centre, each Guide Dog-in-training is cared for by volunteer Puppy Raisers from eight weeks of age until they are 14 months old and taught basic obedience and showered with love and affection.

“It takes $50,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog so the presentation will be a celebration of the dedicated training over the past two years to get these life-changing dogs to the all-important working stage of their life,” Eddie Sullivan said.

Every day in Australia, 28 people are diagnosed with vision loss that cannot be corrected, including nine who will become blind.

“With the demand for Guide Dogs’ services increasing due to growing numbers of people having trouble getting around as a result of sight loss, we’re incredibly grateful for the support we receive from the community,” Mr Sullivan said.