On March 24th the staff of NZMS and sister company Desktop Imaging ran a fundraising event to support the Red Puppy Appeal: The Blind Foundation’s annual fundraising event in support of Guide Dog Services.
During morning tea team members brought along their best baked goods to share together and were given the opportunity to learn more about the important role guide dogs have in the lives of their humans.
We welcomed ‘handler’ Barbara with her Guide Dog Lacey, and Guide Dog Mobility Instructor Kim from the Blind Foundation, to share a cuppa with us. Kim explained that it takes around two years of rigorous training for a puppy to graduate as a guide dog – with an investment ‘in the thousands’ - and that the guide dog programme has no government funding in New Zealand, so supporting the Red Puppy Appeal is vital.
Puppies are looked after by foster families known as ‘puppy walkers’ for the first year or so, then they spend 6-9 months in training with a Guide Dog Instructor. Once a dog is fully trained, they’re matched with a person who is blind or has low vision, and this person is known as the dog’s handler. It’s an important process getting the right dogs for the right people and the whole process of matching is rigorous – taking into consideration a range of factors like activity levels, home and work environments, and even walking speed. Once the handler and dog graduate as a team, they can work together for up to 9 years before the guide dog retires.
Barbara told us how much having a guide dog has improved her confidence in getting around, and reminded us that it’s really important to ‘ignore’ any dog that is working because if the dog gets distracted it can be very dangerous for both of them. So if you see a dog in harness, or with a red puppy coat on, or any other kind of identification that indicates they are a service dog admire them from a distance; please don’t pat them or talk to them (right Andy?).
Staff enjoyed learning experience and we raised $276.10 for the Red Puppy appeal ‘on the day’ however you can still help out by contributing online to our staff member’s online fundraising page: https://redpuppy17.everydayhero.com/nz/tracey-s-red-puppy-appeal
You can read more about guide dogs on the Blind Foundation website. https://blindfoundation.org.nz/guide-dogs/