On Sunday, May 26, at Whiffin Spit, The Purina® Walk for Dog Guides came to Sooke. It is coordinated annually by the Sooke Harbourside Lions Club.
The event raises funds that go toward the training of Dog Guides in Canada. It costs approximately $20,000 for one dog to be raised and trained.
There are six working dogs in Sooke. One of them was there at the walk. Roland, accompanied by his owners Rod and Christina Holt, happily walked in the rain.
Three-year-old Roland, raised and trained by the Lions, is the companion to the Holt’s autistic son, 11-year-old Thomas.
“Thomas used to be a bolter,” explained Rod, “There is a clip on his (Roland’s) jacket here, so he (Thomas) would be tied to that clip. We’d walk on one side and Thomas would walk on the other, and so if Thomas decided to run away, we’d just give Roland a command to ‘stay’ and then he would just drop and act like an anchor.”
Roland serves as an excellent bridging device with other children, as it is difficult for Thomas to make friends. Also, “Roland sleeps with him and gives him pressure.”
There are six types of working dogs trained by the Lions Foundation Dog Guide School in Oakville, Ontario.
1. Canine Vision Dog Guides, providing assistance to people who are blind or visually impaired;
2. Hearing Ear Dog Guides, for people who are deaf or hard of hearing;
3. Special Skills Dog Guides, providing assistance to Canadians with physical disabilities;
4. Seizure Response Dog Guides, helping Canadians with epilepsy;
5. Autism Assistance Dog Guides, helping children with autism spectrum disorder; and,
6. Diabetic Alert Dog Guides, helping people with type one diabetes who have hypoglycemic unawareness.
In spite of the rain, Sunday’s turnout was good.
“It’s been good,” said Deb Schenk, the event coordinator. “We’re doing well. The money’s been coming in nicely. I think we’re going to surpass last years.”
One of their key supporters, Geraldine McGuire, raised over $2,000 for this year’s event.
This walk is an annual event with more than 250 communities participating.
The foundation, which receives no government funding, has placed more than 1,900 dog guides with Canadians with disabilities.
The Sooke Harbourside Lions will be taking donations for the Dog Guides until June 20. You can donate through any Sooke Harbourside Lion or directly on the website, at http://www.purinawalkfordogguides.com/donationGen.cfm.
Next year’s walk will start with a bang, says Schenk. It will begin with a dog race. So be there with your dog, bright and smart, at the starting line!