I am sharing my good fortune in that I am proud to be a ‘puppy raiser’ for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).I am doing so in this blog because it relates directly to aging well and philanthropic opportunities.
By way of background, CNIB is a national charitable institution that is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. They work with people of all ages in their own homes and communities offering a wide range of services to people who have vision loss.
This year for the very first time, CNIB developed its own guide dog program to raise and train guide dogs exclusively for people with sight loss. I am lucky and proud to have Ziggy, who is a beautiful Golden Retriever. As a puppy raiser my job is to socialize him and provide some preliminary training on basic skills, obedience commands and feeding routines before he goes off to guide dog university at about 15 months. From there ‘he will partner with a blind or partially sighted person to guide the user around their environment, avoiding obstacles and indicating hazards’ and so much more. Like any other pet he is a friend and a very much trusted companion.
Ziggy joins me when visiting my clients and I can tell you that he brings sunshine and a smile wherever he goes. I work with two sisters in their nineties who are frail and both use walkers. While he might be pulling me along in the apartment corridor leading to their unit, Ziggy knows that he must lie down and not get in their way nor make any sudden moves. When he is in their home he lies down at their feet and either puts his head in their lap or lies down for a belly rub. When he is wearing his yellow coat, he knows to leave his goofy puppyiness outside the door.
While Ziggy is specifically being trained to be a guide dog, there are several organizations that train therapy dogs. As well there are organizations that provide therapy cat and dog visitation programs. The benefits of pet therapy can be seen on an emotional and physical level, from those with mental health and cognitive challenges.
There is much time (love) and financial expense invested in breeding, raising and training guide dogs. Many of the CNIB supporters have found that with a little planning, one does not need to be wealthy to make a profound difference. Another wonderful charity to consider in your legacy planning work.
Like many of us reading today’s blog, I wear glasses. When I think about losing my eyesight and not being able to improve it, I find myself in a dark place, both figuratively and literally. A guide dog can make a huge difference.