Warm congratulations to our newest graduated guide dog teams and a big thank you to everyone involved in their success.
This 74-year-old Otago based gentleman received his first guide dog in 1992. Ever since he got his hands on his first guide dog, he tossed his cane aside and began navigating his world with a dog in tow. He lives with his partner, who also has a beautiful eight-year-old guide dog.
His most previous guide dog recently passed away at the age of 11. As with most situations, when a beloved family member passes away, it was heart-breaking. Shortly afterwards, when this client was informed a match had been identified for him, Grayson was quickly welcomed with open arms (and paws) into their lives. Grayson soon learned he would be falling into a “cadet” role, having the other seasoned guide dog in the home function as his mentor. He quickly learned what his roles were thanks to the guidance from the two humans and one dog.
Almost every walk in the future will be alongside the other team, which meant both dogs had to learn to be focused without becoming distracted by the other one. This takes time and practice, practice, practice! Learning the basics and teaching the new dog all of the regular routes while learning how to “work doubles” is not always easy, however, with this client’s skill and experience, these challenges were taken in stride. Initially, Grayson was looking all around for the other team as if asking, “Where are you? Are you coming? Should we wait? Are you going to lead, or am I?”
In between his active schedule, we were fortunate enough to get an interview with Grayson. Here is what he had to say, “When I walked into my new home and met my forever person and my new canine mentor, I felt comforted and welcomed. They didn’t seem to mind that I liked to play with their puzzle toys and rope toys, chew on Nyla-Bones, lay on the huge raised dog beds and make noises that make me sound like a Lion roaring when I am playing. My canine mentor has been invaluable in teaching me new destinations and how to be the most efficient guide dog while still managing to make the most out of these varied walks (sometimes I even stop and smell the roses!). My varied and diverse education throughout my short life so far has landed me in the Otago region. Thank you for your interest in interviewing me, but now I have to get back to my job, I am going to guide my new human to Veggie Boys.”
An unanticipated match made in heaven. This lovely lady in Christchurch has been eagerly awaiting for a successor guide dog since her beloved little black guide passed away last year. She has always had black-furred female guides and mentioned to us a slight favourability for another one, if possible.
Imagine her surprise when the call came in that a tall yellow male Labrador has come available. The other end of the phone exploded with glee, however, as this experienced handler heard the description of a smart, sensitive, willing and fast-paced young charge who sounded just perfect. She was overjoyed to hear she would soon be walking hand in paw with another guide dog, no matter what size, fur or gender. Percy was already loved.
And it truly was love at first touch. The excitement and affection shared by both human and guide dog is heart-warming, beyond words. Tears were shed as well as soft yellow strands of fur from all the cuddles and hugs. From the start, Jake fit right in. His home behaviour, manners and daily routine in the garden were impeccable. It was very obvious his puppy raisers put such dedication and efforts into their puppy’s development, and it shows every day in both his home and social behaviour in public. He is a gentleman through and through but also loves to play with his mum like a fun-loving pup. The best of both worlds.
His mum is amazed at how good he is with everything he encounters, and boy have they encountered everything! Day one started off with a smooth fluid walk, both dog and human striding out with ease. It was clear his trainer developed an excellent foundation of guiding skills as this new team cleared obstacles right and left with the confident grace of a seasoned partnership. Happy tears glistened as this handler was overwhelmed with joy to walk freely once again with the effortless movement and efficiency of a well-trained guide dog.
Day two, three, four…and every day thereafter were packed with all environmental challenges you could think of – dogs on and off-lead, cyclists, loud noises, cars on the footpath, over-hanging tree branches, chopped-up uneven surfaces and construction galore – cones, cones, cones and more cones! You cannot go anywhere without encountering heavy machinery hammering on the street corners with obstacles strewn all over the footpath and fenced walk-ways steering pedestrians around the construction zones of chaos. This champion guide dog stepped up to the challenge with the accuracy of a mature professional, giving his new partner confidence in his ability from day one.
This energetic lady has a world-wide wealth of knowledge – having worked as a registered nurse, lived in multiple countries and has more stamps in her passport than she can recall. She has been a massage therapist for years and continues to treat clients in a studio adjacent to her home while her new fur-partner quietly sleeps in a corner of the room or better yet, basks in the sun on their huge deck awaiting the next outing with his mum. It won’t be long before this new team has walked all over Christchurch, every day enjoying each other’s company and partnership in all the adventures life has to offer.
Maya is now happily pounding the pavements of her local area daily as a graduated guide dog. Maya loves destinations and finding seats for her handler. Maya has lifted her handler’s confidence back up to get back out into the world and on with life. Maya has her own playmate at home (retired guide) when she is feeling like a rough and tumble. This is just the beginning for this team who I can see will be out and about a lot.
Jack-of-all-trades’ is the best way to describe our recent guide dog graduate. Gabe’s handler’s vast work and life experience spans from law enforcement, industrial relations, public transport corporation, senior transport planner, marketing, disability network and to legal advocacy across employment, personal injury, disability and corporate.
Gabe is guide dog number four for this experienced handler. He will be travelling with his dad for work all over NZ, banking up those frequent flyer miles and bus journeys into Christchurch CBD. And although this is a new partnership you’d think Gabe and his dad have been with each other for years. From the get-go they just clicked into place – matching each other’s cruisey pace, chilling at the café, riding the bus and navigating the city like a seasoned team. Gabe’s impeccable social and home behaviour made the transition to a new guide dog so easy for both his handler and the whole family. Gabe even won-over the family cat, his new best bud! Happy fellow, happy family and happy Gabe.
Since the handler and their new guide dog met they have enjoyed and easily relaxed with one another’s company with some gentle face licks with harness removal at the end of walks. An all male team, the chaps often walk to varied destinations for coffee and to run errands in the Auckland West region and are welcomed by smiling faces and often comments are made on how handsome the new guide dog is. The handler has found it challenging not having a guide dog and has commented in training how much they enjoy the mobility of a guide dog and the companionship of a guide dog being an animal lover. Undivided attention for this guide dog as no other pets are in the home to compete with so often after their walks a groom from the handler in the sun at home has become a part of the daily schedule.