The last Sunday in May is always a special day, particularly if you have a dog. It is the annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides, where money is raised to help disabled individuals lead better lives.
I was again honoured to be the MC at this year's event, and I must tell you, it was just a fantastic day. More than 175 people came out, with at least 110 extremely well-behaved furry friends.
This year marks the sixth annual Walk for Dog Guides, sponsored by Pet Valu, in north Durham. If their goal of $35,000 is met, the group will have raised just shy of $145,000, in six short years.
Dog guides assist people with the various tasks of everyday life. They are trained to respond to telephone ringing and doorbells, changes in the body temperatures of people with illnesses, and helping people cope, with what many of us take for granted.
Individuals with Autism benefit particularly well from a dog guide. Tasks such as simply having a friend to cuddle with or gaining self-confidence when out in public, as well as being there for life-saving happenings.
Several breeds of dogs are chosen because of temperament, personality and ability to learn quickly. The breeding facility in Oakville raises the puppies and instills basic training instincts. Then they go to foster homes for a year or so, and, after more training, are matched with a forever owner.
The potential new owner is then brought to the facility, where they spend, what could amount to, a few weeks working with their dog. During this period, trainers determine the fitness and the ability of the dog to look after the owner.
One dog costs around $35,000, which is why this fundraising walk is such a great event. Few people can afford their own dogs, but the positive addition the pets make to the lives of disabled people is immense.
The walk is once a year, but donations are accepted and needed all the time. If you find it in your heart to help someone less fortunate, consider the dog guides as a cause you can get behind.
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Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, 'Jonathan van Bilsen's photosNtravel', on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.