Owen Wilson's faithful guide dog helps him live an independent life.

Mr Wilson has had golden labrador Gerry for two and a half years and it helped him take the bus and get to indoor bowls and the shops.

"I can tell him to take me to the PostShop up in Taradale and he'll find the PostShop, and two or three other shops he can find."

Gerry, one of three Blind Foundation dogs helping Hawke's Bay people, was also trained to find pedestrian crossings, to stop at curbs and in front of steps. His canine companion could walk Mr Wilson around obstacles on footpaths.


Mr Wilson said he had had other guide dogs in the past. They typically worked for eight to 10 years.

It took about a year to develop two-way trust between a client and a dog.

"You build up a terrific bond, they become part of the family, and they are your eyes."

Having a guide dog was essential to allowing him to go about his day to day tasks. "It gives me my independence back."

Gerry, like his previous guide dogs, loved meeting people.

"I don't mind as long as he doesn't get distracted too much and we end up not going where we're meant to."

He said the community sponsored the guide dogs and enabled clients to have them so if he was not in a hurry he let people make a fuss of his dog.

Blind Foundation guide dogs adoption programme coordinator Fiona Notton said the organisation had three guide dog teams, made up of a client and their guide dog, in Hawke's Bay.

The foundation is urging people to contribute during the Red Puppy Appeal street collection on April 1 and 2. The annual appeal raises funds for breeding and training guide dogs.

The foundation said guide dogs gave people who were blind, or had low vision, the freedom and confidence to live an independent life.

Blind Foundation spokeswoman Alison Wheatley said guide dog puppies went through two years of rigorous training before they graduated.

Some of this year's graduates would go to people who had not had a guide dog before, while others would replace retiring guide dogs.

"We don't charge people to receive a guide dog " all the costs for breeding and training are met by public donations.

"That's why the Red Puppy Appeal is so important," said Ms Wheatley.

- Anyone keen to donate could keep an eye out for collectors on the streets, donate online at redpuppy.org.nz or text PUPPIES to 305 to donate $3.