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Puppy Love with a Purpose: Calling Calgarians To Help Raise Guide Dogs

By opening your home to a guide dog puppy, you're opening a world of possibilities for someone with visual impairments

If you’re looking for a spring project that will make a difference in the world, this is it.

Canada’s National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is looking for caring Calgarians to help raise future guide dogs.

Raising a guide dog puppy with CNIB is like borrowing a bestseller from a library: you get the joy and enlightenment of the experience, without the need to keep it on your shelf forever, knowing it will eventually enrich someone else’s life even more.

The Goal

All the puppies in the CNIB program are raised, socialized and trained to be a major support system for people with visual impairments.

“When you can have a puppy and know that at the end of that training cycle… that dog is going to go on to do bigger and greater things and give back… I think it’s a really rewarding opportunity,”  Diane Bergeron, president of CNIB guide dogs, told CTV News.

There aren’t enough guide dogs available right now, and sponsoring one can make a massive difference.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure that anybody in Canada who wants or needs a guide dog has an opportunity to get one,” said Bergeron. 

“We’ve already put out approximately 70 guide dogs across the country since we started” (in 2017).

TheRockies.Life Staff

The Requirements

Right now, there are 11 CNIB puppy volunteers in Calgary, and CNIB hopes to increase that number significantly.

“Our requirement is just to have a home that’s able to have a dog in it,” Kezia Gray, a puppy development trainer with CNIB, told CBC. 

“It’s not a requirement for them to have previous experience with dog training.”

However, a commitment to raising a happy, well-adjusted puppy is required.

This does require time and flexibility – funds, however, are provided by the CNIB.

You can care for a puppy as a Puppy Raiser, Puppy Starter, or Puppy Finisher. You get to decide which role works best for you.

Positions vary from about six months to a year.

During that time, puppies need to be walked and socialized daily, house trained, and brought to their weekly and monthly group training sessions.

CNIB covers all their food, vet care, and equipment.

TheRockies.Life Staff

Big Rewards

Volunteer Carla Weber told CBC anyone who loves dogs or volunteering should consider it.

“We all help each other. It’s like a big community. It’s all about the dog and what is going to be than what you know right now because you learn a lot,” said Weber.

The hardest part of the whole process is letting the puppies leave home after the year is up to be formally trained as seeing-eye dogs.

“A lot of our volunteers liken it to basically sending a kid off to college,” said Gray. 

It’s bittersweet, but at the end of the day, they’re sent off with a feeling of pride for how much they have yet to accomplish.

“For me and my family, it’s about what the future holds for that puppy,” said Weber.

By raising a guide dog, you’re gaining a furry friend and making an invaluable contribution to someone’s independence and well-being.

Every guide dog starts with a dedicated volunteer.

If you think that could be you, you can learn more about the process and how to sign up here.

If you’ve got room in your home and heart for a puppy with a purpose – reach out to CNIB and step into a journey that will leave a lasting impact on you this year and for someone else in the future.

TheRockies.Life Staff

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