Regina CNIB looking for 'puppy raisers' for next batch of guide dogs-in-training

CNIB Regina is looking for volunteers to take care of puppies while they train to be guide dogs.

CNIB brought first batch of guide dog puppies in August, expect next in 2020

Andrea Critch leads the puppies on a distraction exercise at the Girl Guides of Regina building on Monday, December 16. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

CNIB Regina is looking for volunteers to take care of puppies while they train to be guide dogs.

"[Volunteers] are so important for us," Andrea Critch, who has been a puppy training supervisor for about two years, said. "We couldn't do it without them. They offer their home, they have to see us twice a month for an obedience class and then for individual visits and they do all the homework that we assign them."

Some young dogs are already training in Regina. Four puppies came to Regina from a special breeder in Australia. They arrived when they were about eight-weeks-old.

The dogs then had crate training, learned 'sit' and 'down,' how to be nice and calm, and how to go into stores. 

"They have matured so much," Critch said. "They're learning what's scary in the world, what's not scary."

On Monday, Critch was leading the pups in a distraction exercise.

"Really focusing on dog distraction, basic obedience, and this is a new environment so it's another socialization for them as well," Critch said. 

They will soon be taking the dogs on longer transit rides, to Costco during a busy time and downtown with construction happening around them.

"They have a long way to go still."

Lulu is the only female guide dog-in-training in Regina. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

This group of guide dogs will be in Regina until next August, when they'll be transferred to Ontario for formal training. 

The group training keeps the pups focused and helps build relationships.

"We need to teach them love, we need to teach them how to bond because they're gonna be someone's lifeline in the future," she said. 

More volunteers needed for puppies on their way

Rod Evans is a volunteer with guide dog-in-training Wallace. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

CNIB plans to bring more to the city in 2020 and needs volunteers to care for them.

Kerry MacDonald is taking care of Indy, one of the puppies currently in training. He volunteered because it would help him move into retirement, he said. 

"It's a lot of work. It's things I didn't expect but it's been really rewarding," MacDonald said. "I think it's a win-win for everybody."

Indy can sometimes act like a child or toddler, but is a very smart dog, Kerry MacDonald said. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

MacDonald makes sure to take Indy to the Fieldhouse once a week as well, because the smells from the rubber mat can be distracting and it helps to educate people to not touch Indy or try to play with him when the two are working, he said. 

"So he's got the jacket on, he's working — he's got the jacket off, he's a dog. He plays," MacDonald said. 

"It's an all-day, seven days a week, kind of job but a really rewarding job," he said. "I would recommend anyone to do it."

Anyone interested in volunteering as a puppy raiser or boarder can learn more on CNIB's website. 

Indy is led by volunteer Kerry MacDonald at a training exercise on December 16, 2019. (Ethan Williams/CBC)

With files from Ethan Williams