This Wednesday 27 April we celebrate International Guide Dog Day and how these four-legged wonders can change the life of someone with sight loss.

It is an opportunity to celebrate the work of guide dogs around the world and raise awareness of the importance of guide dog services to help people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, live life without limits.

This International Guide Dog Day, Blind Low Vision NZ are celebrating the many different teams who work hard to ensure that as many puppies graduate to become working guide dogs as possible.

Currently, approximately 120 puppies are bred each year, of which approximately one-third go on to become working guide dogs. It takes two years of rigorous training for the puppies to become guide dogs, involving an incredible team of skilled people: nutritionists, breeders, trainers, carers and support workers.

Our guide dog programme relies solely on the generous support of the public to raise and train guide dogs. Your donations can give people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision more freedom and independence.

“It’s the difference between a much smaller life spent largely at home, and the full life of independence that Yazz has given me. The amount of effort he goes to keep me safe is amazing,” says Guide Dog Handler, Sue Emirali.

When born, guide dog puppies are closely looked after by a team of specialists at the breeding centre until they are around nine weeks old, at which point they go out to a group of volunteer puppy raisers.

Long-time puppy raiser, Jill Louden says: “It’s incredibly rewarding work, knowing that your pup might go on to help someone who has vision loss. Of course, it’s hard to say goodbye, but so worth it.”

During their stay with the puppy raisers, the Guide Dogs team checks in regularly to assist with training and make sure that the dog is showing the right kind of temperament to become a guide dog. After around 12 months, they go back to the kennels to begin their formal training and see whether they have what it takes to graduate from the programme.

When you next see one of the many guide dog teams out and about, take a moment to reflect on the journey that these incredible dogs made before they even meet their handler. Long before they embarked on a life-changing adventure to bring independence back to people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision in Aotearoa and around the world.

Despite the ongoing challenges of a global pandemic, Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs are proud to have continued producing working guide dog teams to support blind, deafblind and low vision Kiwis. We are proud to celebrate International Guide Dog Day on 27 April with our peers around the world.

To learn more about Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs visit guidedogs.org.nz