Warm congratulations to our newest graduated guide dog teams and a big thank you to everyone involved in their success.

Guide Dog Awhi is a black Labrador Retriever who graduated in August 2021.

Awhi wearing a harness (qualification picture)]
Awhi wearing a harness (qualification picture)

Awhi is her handler’s first guide dog. Her handler lives in the Waikato region and regularly travels with her new dog in to the city. Awhi’s handler was impressed by Awhi’s destination memory and her keenness to locate objectives when requested, e.g. the counter, the crossing buzzer or the seat. Awhi’s handler loves how well Awhi settles at her workplace, but also enjoys, Awhi’s affectionate, playful and cheeky side.

Puppy Raisers: Phil and Karin Higham

Guide Dog Ankie is a black Labrador Retriever who graduated in September 2021.

Ankie wearing a harness (qualification picture)
Ankie wearing a harness (qualification picture)

There is a new Guide Dog team in the Wairarapa region! You might just get lucky enough to see a man out and about with his new partner in crime, a female Black Labrador. As this is his first Guide Dog, he might not know that the process he went through to get trained was a bit unusual (and that is putting it mildly!). Their training program began in Dunedin, where he used to live and frequents a few times per year. Seven days into the training program the entire country went into lockdown, at which point he and his dog got on a flight to get back to the North Island to avoid being stuck in Dunedin. Like most of the country, they were stuck at home on lockdown for weeks. Their training couldn’t be completed until the country was at Level 2, so during the weeks of being at home their training consisted of daily phone calls and homework assignments until we could be reunited face to face. Now that their training is completed they can be seen pounding the pavement in their home area. What this new GD Handler may not tell you that he rides tandem bicycles for exercise, typically 10 km per day, 5 times per week. As of late that number has been reduced to zero due to recent COVID times although I predict that very soon this hobby will resume in full force. I would like to personally congratulate this team for being one of the most unusual training programs ever and taking it all in stride!

Puppy Raiser: Jane Coughlan

Guide Dog Gabe is a black Labrador Retriever who graduated in October 2021.

Gabe wearing a harness (qualification picture)
Gabe wearing a harness (qualification picture)

Gabe is now resident in a busy Auckland suburb and loves every minute of being out walking with his new handler. He is this retired gentleman’s first Guide Dog and after waiting nearly 4 years it is a big change to being out with his white cane. Church is a major part of this teams’ life and they can be seen walking 4 to 5 times a week to the service and locating the same seat in the front row each time. After their working time, Gabe loves nothing more than games in the big back yard and plenty of time lying in the sun. He has different beds dotted around the house for him to relax on but every time the harness and lead are picked up he is wagging his tail and nudging his handler to say he is ready to go!

Puppy Raiser: Silvano Nieto

Guide Dog Franklin is a black Labrador Retriever / Golden Retriever cross who graduated in October 2021.

Black Labrador Retriever named Franklin wearing a harness
Franklin wearing a harness (qualification picture)

This female Guide Dog Handler was born and bred in Dunedin and has lived here for her entire life. One of her most significant routes with her Guide Dog, and one which she has been doing for about 16 years, is her paper route. She wakes at around 4 AM six days per week to retrieve the newspapers which are delivered on her doorstep. She, her partner and her daughter then fold almost 60 newspapers, put them in their bags and then sling them over their shoulders to hit the road. The three of them deliver the newspapers throughout their hilly neighbourhood to designated homes, it is quite a production to observe! As an experienced handler, she has effortlessly been able to balance receiving her fourth new Guide Dog, a male Golden retriever X Labrador Retriever, in conjunction with keeping her retired Guide Dog as a pet. Her previous Guide Dog has been a mentor for her new Guide Dog, showing him the ropes both in and out of the home. Whether it is watching the activity at the BLVNZ office every Wednesday night at blind bowls, at home playing with some of the much-coveted toys (the stuffed octopus is the most cherished!) or just simply relaxing in the house, she has been a great teacher for the newest addition to the family. I am confident that this new team will have a long career together just as her predecessors have!

Puppy Raisers: Nava, Valasi, Siniva, Farnousch and Ruta Sinclair

Guide Dog Ezra is a black Labrador Retriever who graduated in November 2021.

A black Labrador Retriever Guide Dog named Erza wearing a harness near a pot of plants.
Erza wearing a harness (qualification picture)

The long-anticipated day finally came and this gentleman said it was more than worth the wait to meet his first guide dog, Ezra. It was love at first cuddle. Ezra soon won over the heart of his new dad and family with his cruisy attitude, affectionate nature and the love of a rousing game of tug. He fit right in from his first paw in the door, joining an active family of 4 (well, 5 including the beloved family Beagle). Ezra will have a variety of new adventures with this gentleman who works full-time in the disability field on the South Island. Together they will be walking to and from work in a bustling office with other guide dogs, flying to other parts of the country, attending sporting events and pre-school to pick up his human brothers and exploring new places throughout the city.

This gentleman is a passionate advocate for accessibility and awareness, often speaking with the public about blindness and low vision through interviews, TV news appearances and speaking events. He is excited to venture into the new world of guide dog mobility with Ezra, his ‘big black bear’ (and we do mean big!)

Puppy Raisers: Jacqueline Macleod, Matthew Gruiters

Guide Dog Henry is a yellow Labrador Retriever who graduated in November 2021.

Yellow Labrador Retriever named Henry wearing a harness
Henry wearing a harness (qualification picture)

This female handler and Henry developed a solid rapport in these few weeks with a good balance of play and work. She put much effort into adapting her handling to new techniques and style of relating to her dog, open to GDMI’s guidance and input. She also has a high workload and lives/walks in challenging environment every day. Much emphasis placed on connecting with her guide dog at various intervals to give Henry opportunity to release natural tension incurred from the challenging environment and long distance walks.
Client very pleased with her new guide and looks forward to adding more adventures to their relationship.

Puppy Raiser: Matthew Holton

Guide Dog Force is a black Labrador Retriever / Golden Retriever cross who graduated in November 2021.

Black Labrador Retriever / Golden Retriever cross who is named Force wearing a harness
Force wearing a harness (qualification picture)

Force is going to a seasoned handler, having had 4 previously. Jonathan had an 8 year break in between his last GD and this one, with his newest being a 22 month old male Black Labrador X Golden Retriever. Both dog and human are real “go getters” leading an active and busy lifestyle. This amazing dog is “bomb proof”, taking everything in stride. He has been comfortable and relaxed with any new environment he has been introduced to whether that is rural, CBD, kids running around, farm animals, hearing fireworks go off and not batting an eye…This dog is well socialized, loving and affectionate.

Jonathan has accomplished some interesting feats throughout his life. Believe me when I say the list is long and I am only providing a sprinkling here. He recently purchased a land block and has been building fences and planted hundreds of trees to secure the property in order to keep all of the animals secure. The animals consist of 16 sheep, 6 donkeys, 1 pony, 8 goats, 5 chickens, 6 ducks, 3 alpaca, 4 cows and a tiny dog. He regularly heads out to the farm with his three children to live off the grid (no Internet there – gasp!). I was privileged to see it for myself and saying it was beautiful, relaxing and breath taking would be an understatement.

Jonathan has been at Massey University for over 30 years and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Statistics (and, he is the first totally blind person to gain a lecturing position in statistics – worldwide. WOW!). He is currently the National President of Blind Citizens NZ, which he has been on the board for almost 18 years.

I have no doubt that this team will accomplish an abundance of new adventures in life and I am glad to be the first in congratulating both of them!

Puppy Raisers: Angela Fisher, Shelley Cooper-Jones

Guide Dog Ruby is a black Labrador Retriever who graduated in November 2021.

Black Labrador Retriever named Ruby wearing a harness
Ruby wearing a harness (qualification picture)

Ruby is this lady’s first guide dog. She bonded quickly with her new handler, feeling at home from day one – sprawling in the patches of sun through the window, gazing out the back deck at golfers in the distance, sleeping on mum’s feet and following her human everywhere. These two hit the ground running, well, strolling. Neither dog nor human is in a hurry to get anywhere but rather enjoy each other’s cruisy pace, taking in the beautiful weather and surroundings on the west coast of the north island.
This handler could not be more grateful and in awe of the impeccable social behaviour Ruby has in restaurants, buses, trains and shopping centres. Ruby just plants herself under the seat or table and doesn’t move an inch, allowing her human counterpart to eat a meal and converse with friends without worry or concern of what could potentially be happening under the surface (i.e. canine hoover). Nope. This girl has the dining manners of royalty. I have no doubt Princess Ruby and her mum will touch the lives of many in their VIP support groups (Vision Impaired Person) locally and travelling around the country. They may not technically fly in ‘First Class’ but this new partnership IS first class through and through.

Puppy Raisers: Robert & Diana Clarke

Guide Dog Easton is a yellow Labrador Retriever who graduated in November 2021.

Yellow Labrador Retriever Guide Dog named Easton
Easton wearing a harness (qualification picture)

This GD Handler has had a 16 year break in between his last GD and his new GD. I would like to be the first to introduce you to his new partner in crime, a handsome 22 month old male Yellow Labrador Retriever. A relaxed and chilled out dog, he is a perfect match for this handler. Very early on this pooch was introduced to music, which is always playing in the background to enjoy. When he has his bursts of energy, you can see him scooting around like a wild man and then just as quickly he will turn his engine off to go lay on his cushy bed with his Nyla Bone. He enjoys being brushed with the Zoom Groom and has been known to try to do a headstand in an attempt to maximize the experience!

There are many interesting things to say about this GD Handler, and here are just a few to sink your teeth into. A world traveller, he has travelled the world about 5 times visiting places like Ireland, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Fiji, London, Scotland, Wales, France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Holland, Belgium, Turkey and Hong Kong (do you have jet lag from reading all of that???). In his sporting life he was one of the first blind men to represent New Zealand and blind athletics. In 1977 he went to the Far East South Pacific Games in Sydney where he won 2 Silver and a Bronze. He has run several marathons all over the world, his best time being 3 ½ hours (wow). He was involved with Blind Sports from 1965 – 2010, 45 years!

As a retired man, he spends his time in a suburb of Auckland where he has lived for almost 67 years. You may see this new team out and about at the gym or fishing at the Kiwi Blind Fishing Club and if you are lucky enough to spot them, introduce yourself and be prepared for a fun conversation. After an abundance of hard work from both human and dog, I would like to say congratulations!

Puppy Raisers: Melody & Steve Johnstone, Helen & Shaun Hayward