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Could you give a puppy a loving home for a year before it becomes a guide dog?

Retired people and families with children generally provide good foster homes for puppies.

I was using a walking cane but when I had an incident that knocked my confidence, I knew I needed a set of eyes. Getting a guide dog brought my confidence to a whole new level.

unnamed (15) Source: Conor McCabe Photography via Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind

Lean Kennedy began to lose her sight aged 13.

She told TheJournal.ie how in her early 20s she used a long cane to get around and that it was going well until she knocked into a ladder one day that the cane didn’t detect.

“It really knocked my confidence. I took 10 steps back. It was then I decided to get a dog. It made a huge difference to me both confidence wise and independence wise.

I still lead a very normal life. I go to dance lessons and I work full time. The only thing I can’t do is drive. I completely trust my dog Roy.

In need of a home

Volunteer puppy walkers foster puppies for the first 12 months of their lives before they become trained as guide dogs. The puppy walker’s job is to give the puppy a loving home and teach it basic obedience and social skills.

Paula McGovern is the Communications Manager with the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, she said, “the majority of our puppy walkers take dogs multiple times. It’s not an easy thing to do because you’re taking the dog when it’s at its cutest and boldest and you have to hand it back just when it’s starting to get manners.

“Some people get very attached to the dogs and find it very upsetting handing it over but the majority of people will continue and take another dog.”

Guide Dog Source: Mojito with Dogs via Flickr/Creative Commons

Lisa Sutch is based in Dublin and is on her third foster puppy.

It’s devastating when the time comes to hand back over the dog – it’s really heartbreaking. The only thing that keeps me going is that I’m giving somebody a better life.

“I see the work that these dogs do and the difference they make in people’s lives, be it blind people or children with autism -the difference is just amazing.

“The last dog I had now lives in a huge farm in Tipperary with a little boy who is autistic while the dog I have now, Yana, is leaving us in October.

Speaking about Yana, Lisa said, “She’s just a big ball of baby fluff. My daughter picked her from the litter.

“I love being able to bring her out everywhere. You can’t really leave them for longer than two hours so Yana goes wherever I go – shopping, to the dentist, doctor, just everywhere.

Irish Guide Dogs for the blind says that retired people and families with children generally make good puppy walkers, but anyone can apply and having pets doesn’t necessarily exclude people.

The important thing is that the person is able to spend time caring for and teaching the puppy.

However, there needs to be an adult at home full time and puppies cannot be placed in homes where there are more than two other dogs or if there are any children under the age of five.

Pick me…pick me

If you are interested in becoming a Puppy Walker, please complete and submit the Puppy Walker Application Form. You can also call 1850 506 300 for more information.

Puppy-walkers are needed in the following counties:

  • Cork
  • Limerick
  • Waterford
  • Dublin
  • Wicklow
  • Kildare
  • Meath
  • Westmeath
  • Athlone

90186954 Joe Bollard and his guide dog Dillon. Joe lost his sight at age 2 when he went into hospital for a routine ear operation. Source: Mark Stedman via Photocall Ireland

The charity supports the volunteer puppy walkers by holding practical workshops and paying for all veterinary fees and feeding costs.

There are also Puppy Walking Supervisors who work closely with each puppy and make visits to monitor the puppy’s progress.

I can’t be a puppy walker but can I do something else?

The Irish Guide Dogs for the blind says, “Volunteers make an invaluable contribution towards our success and are central to the way in which we work. The charity is more than 80% funded through voluntary individual donations and fundraising events.

Hundreds of people of all ages and from all walks of life volunteer with us – from supporting us in the breeding and raising of our puppies right through to raising the finances to fund our extensive programme of services.

You can also get involved in the following areas:

  1. Fundraising administration: Headquarters based administrative support, donate an hour or a day of your time and help us at our headquarters in Cork.
  2. Fundraising: join one of our branches throughout the country, get your local community group involved or fundraise as an individual with us.
  3. Client Services administration: please apply to provide administrative support for client services at our headquarters.
  4. General: drivers, maintenance, gardening, cleaning, vehicle care, training, mentoring.

Take a peek

The Irish Guide Dogs national dog training centre in Cork will open to the public next Saturday so people can  meet and interact with pups in training and working dogs.

00096192 Source: Graham Hughes via Photocall Ireland

There’ll also be an opportunity for people to experience the great work the dogs do by taking a blind-folded guide dog walk.

The charity said, “Our open day is a great opportunity to view our training centre, meet our staff and dogs, watch our dog demonstrations and browse our farmer’s market.

Find out how a cheeky adorable young pup can be the seeing eyes of a person who is vision impaired or assist a family with a child with autism.

It’s on at Model Farm Road from 12pm to 4pm on August 30. Check out www.guidedogs.ie for further information and for a map to the centre.

Read:  ‘I was all alone in the house, no wife, no kids – when my dog died it was the last thing’>

Read: Could you be the first point of contact for a child who wants to talk?>

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