OAKVILLE, ON–Like many charities, Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (LFCDG) and Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society (DWW) have faced many challenges due to COVID-19. These challenges included figuring out how to safely train Dog Guides and Assistance Dogs, deliver them to applicants, breed future Dog Guides and Assistance Dog puppies and raise funds to continue to deliver services.

To date, LFCDG, deemed an essential service across all provinces, has learned to adapt to continue to deliver its mission by training Dog Guides and breeding puppies while social distancing, delivering Dog Guides to applicants through home placements and supporting teams through video calls and Google classrooms, and pivoting its annual fundraiser to a virtual event.

DWW, also an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited organization in Edmonton, Alberta, finds themselves with clients waiting to be matched with a certified dog, but no dogs to match them with due to COVID restrictions limiting their ability to access dogs through the ADI breeding cooperative. Like LFCDG, DWW focuses on assisting Canadians with a disability by providing Assistance Dogs at no cost.

“We are thrilled to provide DWW 8-10 dogs so they can continue to assist those that need an Assistance Dog to feel inclusive and independent”, says Beverly Crandell, CEO of LFCDG. “The dogs will be transferred after travel restrictions have been lifted. Their skilled instructors will then train them and match them to clients on their wait list. In exchange, DWW have offered to assist any of our LFCDG graduates within the province who need support.” Kim Zahara, Interim Executive Director for DWW shared, “This collaboration exemplifies how through working together, we are able to transform the way people with disabilities live. Receiving a life changing Assistance Dog allows clients to navigate the world on their terms. DWW is so thankful we were able to collaborate with LFCDG to assist our clients in western Canada.”

LFCDG is a national charity that provides Dog Guides in seven programs. During these difficult times, LFCDG needs support from the public in order to continue to provide life-changing dogs. During the month of May, the foundation is hosting the Pet Valu Virtual Walk for Dog Guides, an event that relies on Canadians to join and donate to create awareness and fundraise for the organization that receives zero government funding. With each Dog Guide team costing approximately $35,000, LFCDG needs all the help they can get. The event has no registration fee thanks to its national sponsor, Pet Valu. Those interested in participating can do so by visiting www.walkfordogguides.com

By joining the Pet Valu Virtual Walk, Canadians will assist someone like Kristen receive a Dog Guide like Ivor.

Kristen & Ivor
At 26 years old, Kristen wanted her independence but being blind made that very difficult… that is until Ivor came into her life in the midst of the pandemic.” Being blind made it very hard to get around on my own. I wasn’t able to leave my house unless I had someone with me to hold on to. Even travelling within my home was difficult as I have no peripheral vision. Ivor has changed my life by giving me independence and freedom, indoors and outdoors. This last year has been tough but with Ivor as my guide, I have been able to get through it.”

About Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides
LFCDG is the only accredited ADI and IGDF organization in the world that provides Dog Guides in seven programs: Canine Vision, Hearing, Service, Seizure Response, Autism Assistance, Diabetic Alert and Facility Support. Located in Oakville, ON, the foundation provides highly trained dogs across Canada and relies on public support to match Dog Guides teams at no cost. Each Dog Guide takes approximately $35,000 to breed, train and place with qualified Canadians with a medical or physical disability. To learn more about Dog Guides and their fundraising initiatives, please visit www.dogguides.com

About Dogs with Wings Assistance Dog Society
DWW is a leader in the international community of assistance dog training schools. Their mission is to foster integration and independence for individuals with disabilities by providing them with highly trained assistance dogs and aftercare. This year, DWW is celebrating their 25th Anniversary of providing excellence, service and impact to western Canada. Together, they are changing lives . . . one dog at a time. To learn more about DWW and support the organization, visit www.dogswithwings.ca

About the Pet Valu Virtual Walk for Dog Guides
The Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is a national fundraising walk for LFDCG that under normal circumstances would be held in approximately 300 communities across Canada. It raises funds to help train Dog Guides for Canadians with visual, hearing, medical or physical disabilities. Each walk is organized by local volunteers with support from LFCDG. To date, the walk has raised more than $19 million!

This year, to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the walk has gone virtual! Visit www.walkfordogguides.com to learn more, donate or register.

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