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Record money pledged to raise, train and place Dog Guides

The more money raised, the more dog guides we see come through the area

Humans and dogs put their best foot or paw forward as the case may be, for the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides fundraiser at the North Bay waterfront Sunday afternoon.

Organizers say a record amount was raised...$14,000, beating the old record of $12,000.

The walk started at the Rotary Shelter continuing to Lee Park and back to complete the loop.

Volunteer Susan Martin drove from Sudbury with Molly, her 13-year-old Maltese Yorkie to lend a helping hand.  

 “I think it is very important that people have Dog Guides to help them with their needs. My sister has actually raised five dogs and one went on to help an autistic child and she’ll be doing some more puppies too. For the first year, the dog guides are put with a family. The family fosters them and then they go to Oakville to the centre for training,” explained Martin.

The event, which organizers say has been running locally for at least 17 years, raises money to help cover the cost of training Dog Guides for people with medical or physical disabilities, creating life-changing opportunities.

Selected dogs receive extensive training, focusing on one of seven programs.

“We have our canine vision, hearing, autism assistance, seizure response, the service dog guide, diabetic alert, and then there is also our new facility support dog guide,” explained Melanie Pigeau, a member of the  Widdifield Lions Club and chair of the Pet Value Walk for Dog Guides.

See: North Bay one of the top guide dogs fundraisers in Canada

Unfortunately, like many things, the cost of training the animals has gone up.    

“Absolutely it has, it is now $35,000 to raise, train and place a dog guide now. That is done out of Oakville where the Lions Foundation of Canada’s dog guide school is located,” explained Pigeau.

Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides does not receive any government funding, and all Dog Guides are provided at no cost to qualified applicants.

Over the years, many successful matches have been made with applicants from North Bay.   

“I can think of over a dozen off the top of my head. It is really fun watching so many come to our area, and that is what I really love to see, how many different training fields we’ve had in North Bay come through here,” Pigeau added.

Part of the training includes working with the applicant to ensure the pair can work together as a  team.

“Depending on the program it could be about a four-week training course for the handler and the dog,” said Pigeau.

Dog owners were excited to take part in Sunday’s first in-person walk for dog guides since the pandemic hit.

First-time walker Cindy Rivest-Vainio has supported previous walks by providing donations through work. Her French Bulldog Hazel was raring to go.    

“This year we decided to create a team to participate. One of my neighbours actually has a service dog, a yellow lab and he’s a joy. So to watch him grow as a service dog for his owner and to watch this event grow, we need to give our support. It is important.”  

As event chair, Pigeau offered participants an option when it came to walking.   

“People really enjoyed the virtual aspect, especially those who were out of town and also those who just can’t make it on walk day. So, what I had chosen to do this year is a hybrid event. So I  gave things online for people who couldn’t make it out, where they can make their own doggy games at home and participate with us on walk day as well as of course, all the in-person events. We did raffle draws rather than silent auctions so anybody could buy tickets to participate and win the prizes.”

Continuing with tradition, a dog wash fundraiser will be held next weekend to add to the walk’s total.

See: Splish, splash! Dogs were takin’ a bath!

“That is going to be at the Northern Occasions parking lot,1 Lakeshore Drive, Sunday, June 11th from noon until 3 p.m. We’re asking for a minimum donation of $10,” shared Pigeau.

“It is a car wash style dog wash, however, the hoses are hooked up to hot water, and people worry that the water will be cold.  We’ll make it as comfortable as possible but outdoors. We have set up tents and in the event of a sprinkle, we will do it under the tents, but I’ve never actually had to cancel it.”

Bring a little extra money and enjoy lunch while your pet gets scrubbed down.   

“We also do a barbecue that day so people can enjoy some food while their pups are getting washed. And we send the dogs home with a bandana with a Walk for Dog Guides logo on it as well as some homemade treats.”  

 If getting washed isn’t your dog’s thing, you still support the cause by stopping by with a donation.

“The more money raised, the more dog guides we see come through the area because there are more funds out there to approve more applications,” Pigeau advised.