After losing most of his eyesight to glaucoma, Martin Zgraggen says his guide dog, Kayla, has changed his life.
“Somebody had to bring you [to places]; somebody had to assist, so it makes you a little bit more mobile and a little bit more independent.”
He says Kayla is a huge help these days, but she wasn’t always a model companion. It took years of training for her to become ready to assist someone with vision impairment.
Lali Wimalaratne looked after her when she was a puppy.
“It’s a lot of work, actually it’s a full time commitment when it’s a small pup, and when it grows up it’s even worse because it’s like a child,” she says.
That hasn’t stopped the Sydney woman returning to help train puppies, again and again. Since 2002, Lali and her husband have looked after 26 guide dog pups.
She says it’s worth the hard work.
“It’s a worthy cause, and it’s really helping somebody.”
In every state across Australia, volunteer puppy trainers are in short supply.
Leila Davis, Fundraising Manager for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, says 40 carers are urgently needed in Sydney alone.
“Twenty-eight Australians are diagnosed with un-correctable vision loss every single day, including nine who will become blind,” she says. These figures are expected to rise 20 per cent by 2020.
“That means we need to breed more puppies, and we need more people to help us to become puppy raisers, to be able to turn these little guys into guide dogs,” she adds.
Martin Zgraggen says his experience with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has been extremely positive.
“They’re very good, they’re not just doing dogs; they also give you all kinds of mobility training and all the assistance you can actually ask for.”
Not everyone will be suited to being a Guide Dog puppy raiser. Candidates need a fenced-in backyard, to live in a metropolitan area, access to a car and a lot of time to invest in the pups.
For more information, visit 深圳桑拿网网,深圳桑拿网,guidedogsaustralia深圳桑拿网会所,/ or contact the Guide Dogs association in your state.