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10 December, 2015

Huge crowd enjoys graduation

Puppy Raisers Shauna and Melinda with the Guide Dogs they raised, Gibbs and Sadie

Eight new Guide Dogs celebrated at Martin Place

Hundreds of people cheered and clapped as the red carpet was rolled out for eight very special graduates in Martin Place on Tuesday.

Graduating Guide Dogs, Gulliver, Emma, Sadie, George, Gibbs, Esta, Finn and Finch were presented with their graduating harnesses to a huge audience at the pre-Christmas lunchtime ceremony.

For the first time in a decade, the public were invited to share in the occasion and were joined by those who had helped turn the bouncy puppies into working Guide Dogs that will soon be matched with someone who is blind or vision impaired to assist them go wherever they need to go, so they can live the life they choose.

In a tribute to those who made the day possible, each dog was walked onto the stage by a Guide Dogs NSW/ACT Instructor to their Puppy Raiser.

Guide Dog handler Barbara Bonfield with her Guide Dog, Samara talking to the audience about her journey. Photo courtesy of Klaus Hollitzer

It was an emotional day for many volunteer Puppy Raisers, who had not seen the dogs they had cared for in about five months when they were returned to the Guide Dogs Centre for intensive training. There were many happy and proud tears shed as they were reunited on stage.

Melinda Ojalen and Shauna Forlani spent a few moments after the ceremony giving newly graduated Guide Dogs, Gibbs and Sadie lots of love and pats by the side of the stage.

Mrs Forlani, who Puppy Raised Gibbs from about eight weeks to 12 months and provided basic training and lots of love said she was very, very proud.

"It is always hard to say goodbye, but I know that what I have done will help someone who is vision impaired and that is what matters," she said.

Ms Ojalen echoed this sentiment. "I think whoever gets Sadie will get a very good companion," she said.

The large crowd also witnessed Guide Dog demonstrations, puppy pre-school with four nine-week-old pups and heard about the journey of Guide Dog handlers.

The chance to give a puppy a hug at the puppy play-pen was irresistible to children and adults alike.


  • Guide Dogs are easily identifiable by their harness.
  • Guide Dogs are not pets. They are highly trained to open up the world for people who are blind or vision impaired.
  • It costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog
  • Guide Dogs NSW/ACT provides all its services free of charge and relies on the generosity of the public via donations to continue providing its vital services.
  • Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.