Saskatchewan

Exciting, emotional day as first batch of guide dog puppies leave Regina to further training

One puppy raiser said it was a great experience having Indy with him for a year.

One puppy raiser said it was a great experience having Indy with him for a year

Kerry Macdonald is one of the volunteer puppy raisers. His pup, Indy, is now leaving to continue his training in Ontario. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Four pups are leaving Regina for Ontario to further their training toward being guide dogs.

Indy, Percy, Lulu and Wallace came to the city in August 2019 and have formal training left before becoming guide dogs.

Kerry Macdonald has been a volunteer puppy raiser with Indy since the young, playful pup arrived as CNIB Saskatchewan's guide dog program launched.

"It's fabulous. It's been a great learning experience, some really good people to work with. The dogs have been fabulous," Macdonald said.

Macdonald started volunteering because he was retiring and thinking about getting a dog. It was the first puppy he had since he was a teenager, he said. 

House training the pup provided some challenges, but was worth it in the end, he said. 

"The great thing about it was a sense of accomplishment every time you get to a new stage and they suddenly start doing what they're supposed to do," Macdonald said. 

Indy is one of the guide dog puppies-in-training. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Macdonald said he may be a puppy raiser again in the future, but will take some time off first. He said it's emotional to see Indy go, but great to know the pup's training will continue. 

"I'm excited for him. He loves to learn, he loves to train, he loves to be active. I think he's going to just excel," Macdonald said.

"Someone is gonna get a great dog . They're going to have greater mobility and greater opportunities and he's going to have a fabulous life."

Four future guide dogs came to Regina in August 2019 and are now off to further their training in Ontario. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Kezia Gray, who supervised the puppy raisers, said the city was receptive to the first batch of puppies introduced here. 

"The program's been amazingly received in Regina," she said.

The four puppies she was supervising are now off to Ontario. They have formal training then will either be guide dogs for the blind or partially sighted, ambassador CNIB staff or buddy dogs for children who are blind or partially sighted. 

Christall Beaudry is the executive director of CNIB Saskatchewan and Kezia Gray is the puppy raiser supervisor. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Next batch of puppies expected in fall 2020 

Regina will not be without puppies for long. CNIB Saskatchewan hopes to bring a new batch of three or four dogs this fall. 

Gray said they are looking for puppy raisers who are enthusiastic, have time on their hands and are really willing to learn. 

"It's amazing to see where they end up at the end of it," Gray said. "You can really start to see all the work that you've put in."

Kerry Macdonald and Indy have been together for about a year. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

Gray said it's hard to put into words how important the guide dogs are for those who are matched with one. 

"It changes their life," Gray said. "AIt gives them so much independence. It gets them out socializing a lot more. So it's huge."

About the Author

Heidi Atter

AP/Journalist

Heidi Atter is a journalist working in Regina. She started with CBC Saskatchewan after a successful internship and has a passion for character-driven stories. Heidi has worked as a reporter, web writer, associate producer and show director so far, and has worked in Edmonton, at the Wainwright military base, and in Adazi, Latvia. Story ideas? Email heidi.atter@cbc.ca.

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