Public aid guides dog programme

By Hannah Norton

Golden labrador Vic is four months away from being trained as a fully-fledged guide-dog - a process which costs about $30,000.

But Guide Dog Services is not grant-funded, and the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) relies wholly on donations and fundraisers - such as the garage sale in Kamo next week.

Steve Compton, assistant treasurer on the Whangarei community committee for the Foundation of the Blind, said there are five puppies and 12 guide dogs in the Whangarei region alone.

"It costs in excess of $30,000 to get a fully trained guide dog. And there's no funding - we rely entirely on the generosity of the public."

The Whangarei branch of the foundation is holding a garage sale at its headquarters at 277 Kamo Road on March 9 from 8am.

It will feature all sorts of items including bric-a-brac, household goods, clothing and books, all donated by the community. Donations of goods are still being accepted, and all proceeds will go to the Red Puppy Appeal, a street fundraising appeal on April 5 and 6.

There will also be stations around town collecting money for the appeal on April 4 and 5, and puppies will be at those stations, he said.

Mr Compton said the puppies are given basic training by their puppy walkers such as Vic's owner Rebecca Telfer, who look after them for 12 months. From there they are sent to Guide Dog Services for complete training.

"By the time they are two years old they are ready for their owner," he said. Owners are determined by matching the temperaments of the dogs and the blind person.

"It is absolutely transforming for their life - you see someone struggling and all of a sudden a dog comes into their life and makes it so much easier - that's what spurs us on as volunteers."

He also commends those who don't necessarily make monetary contributions but put in time and effort, for instance becoming a puppy walker.

Vic's owner Rebecca describes herself as his "puppy mummy".

"We've always had dogs, and our kids miss our dog who died - it was 14 years old," she said. "This way we get to have a dog and help the community as well."

Mr Compton said one Whangarei local is now looking after his 10th puppy.

- Northern Advocate

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