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Easter bunny raises money for Dog Guides program

The program is basically raising and training dogs to become dog guides. Each Dog Guide costs approximately $35,000 to raise, train and place.

Following a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Easter Bunny hopped its way back into the hearts of pet owners across North Bay Saturday.

Dog and cat owners made memories by having their fur babies sit with the large bunny as pictures were taken as part of an important fundraiser.   

Money raised from the photo shoot goes directly to support the Lions Foundation Dog Guides Program.

Youngster Kyler posed with the bunny, along with his Boston Terrier Gunner and cat Mavis.

Mom Lisa enjoyed the experience of knowing she would be getting a meaningful keepsake photo while helping to raise awareness and money for the Dog Guides Program.

“We wanted to help support them and it has been a while since we’ve had a photo of all of the pets and my son together,” grinned Lisa.

Dog owner Jess Whalen was happy to get a special memento of her five-year-old dog Beans.

“I just wanted to help raise money for the cause and get a cute picture of him with the bunny. I’ve done the walk before (Walk for Dog Guides) but not the pictures. It is a great fundraiser.”

Melanie Pigeau, chair of the Walk for Dog Guides committee with the Widdifield Lions Club explains the importance of Saturday’s photo shoot.  

“This is one of our major kick-off events before the grand event, which is the Walk for Dog Guides that we do the first Sunday in June,” said Pigeau.

“The program is basically raising and training dogs to become dog guides. We have had a lot move into the area over the past few years.”

The dogs undergo an assessment and based on their strengths, are trained to meet individual client needs.

The dogs (labs, golden retrievers, and occasionally even some medium-sized poodles), are trained at the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides facility in Oakville.

“They see what duties they do best, and then they figure out what department they are going to work in. And then from there they pair them with a graduate who is on the waitlist, and once they match a dog with a graduate, then they have to work together to make sure they are a matching pair,” explained Pigeau.

The dog guide recipient commits to take part in training at the facility alongside the animal, at no cost to the individual.    

“Once they match a dog with the graduate, they then have to work together to make sure they’re a matching pair as well. So they go through training where they have to live at the school for a few months and get that training.”

Dog Guides are trained to provide any one of a number of services.  

“We have canine vision, hearing impaired, we have the service dog guide as well, and autism assistance,” Pigeau stated.  

Dogs are also trained for diabetic alert, and seizure response, as well as facility support for professional agencies that assist individuals in traumatic situations.

Dogs are provided at no cost to eligible Canadians with disabilities to help them safely navigate their world.

The cost to raise, train and place one dog guide is approximately $35,000.

“Obviously costs go up over the years, so it is getting more and more expensive to do that. They go into a foster home for about a year, a year and a half and while there, they are just normal puppies, but they do learn to ride on buses, go into the malls, and just be puppies. And then, they go back to the school for their in-depth training.”

The more money that is raised, the more dogs can be trained and matched, which is why the Widdifield Lions Club schedules a number of fundraisers throughout the year.

The next event, North Bay’s Walk for Dog Guides takes place on Sunday, June 4th at the Rotary Picnic Shelter beginning with registration at noon followed by the actual walk to Lee Park and back, an hour later.

The following weekend, June 11th, volunteers will be back at it, hosting a dog wash fundraiser.

For more information about any of these fundraisers, call 705-493-2282.