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13 March, 2018

Guide Dog Presentation Day in Canberra

Six Guide Dogs in their harnesses in a row lying down

Six new Guide Dogs were presented with their very first harness at a special Guide Dog NSW/ACT ceremony in Canberra last week.

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 vision impaired.

The six Guide Dogs included four yellow dogs, Nicci, Olive, Page and Ollie; and two black dogs named Nessy and Nora. Each dog has spent five months undergoing intensive training at the Guide Dog Centre learning the skills to guide a person safely with vision impairment.

“We had a wonderful group of Guide Dogs presented who will soon be matched with a person in the community who is vision impaired and 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 Patrick Shaddock, Team Manager for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT’s Canberra office.

Those attending the special presentation in Canberra had the opportunity to watch the Guide Dogs demonstrate their skills, enjoyed a Puppy Pre-School session, met a new litter of Labrador puppies and heard from Guide Dog handlers about how their lives have changed for the better.

The dogs in their harnesses lined up in a row with Karen Hayter

Guide Dog handler, Jo Weir, who also works as Client Feedback Officer for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT spoke about the positive impact her Guide Dog Wiley has made in her life. “Wiley is so much more than a mobility aid and much loved companion,” Jo said. “He has changed my world in countless ways and it was great to share an insight into our life as a Guide Dog team”.

Canberra-based client, Amanda Heal was also in attendance at the presentation with her Guide Dog Sadie (Sadie is Amanda’s fourth dog). Amanda received her first Guide Dog in 1989 while studying at Australian National University (ANU) and is now a Public Relations Speaker for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT. As a speaker, Amanda travels around Canberra and ACT visiting schools, clubs, seniors and other community groups to talk about her experience with vision issues and how she manages her life, living with a Guide Dog.

Before undergoing intensive training at the Guide Dogs Centre, each Guide Dog 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 more than $50,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog so the presentation was 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,” Patrick Shaddock 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,” Patrick said.