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Guide dogs honoured

International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) takes place from Sunday (05/08) to Saturday (11/08).

This week was created to recognise all the devoted, life-changing assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations.

The goal is to honour assistance dogs, raise awareness and educate the public about assistance dogs.

It also honours puppy raisers and instructors. and to recognize the life-changing service performed by assistance dogs in the communities.

The founder of the South-African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind, Gladys Evans, had failing eyesight.

She brought the first guide dog, Sheena, onto the African continent after training at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in the United Kingdom.

Evans established the Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind in Johannesburg in 1953.

Since those early days, the associa­tion has gone from strength to strength, and now has a training centre in Cape Town.

Assistance dog breeding lines are carefully selected to produce the best possible dogs.

Each puppy’s first year is spent in the family home of a volunteer puppy raiser, where the pup is thoroughly socialised before it returns to the association for formal training at the age of 12 to 14 months.

All applicants and dogs are carefully matched to one another according to factors such as size, working requirements and personalities.

Training of a guide dog and recipient is first done at the associa­tion’s residential training centres for two weeks, followed by aftercare training to assist the partnership at home.

For another two weeks or until they are working safely and confidently, they train with routes in the neighbourhood.

The association also trains dogs to assist people with disabilities other than visual impairment.

Service dogs and autism support dogs are trained to perform a variety of basic tasks that are designed to bring independence and companion­ship to their owners.

Service dogs become the physical extension of their owners by retrieving dropped items, turning on light switches and more, while autism support dogs play a physical role in preventing an autistic child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorderfrom wandering away when distracted.

Owning an assistance dog is a life-changing experience for someone with visual or physical impairment or developmental needs.

The dog is in an all-inclusive package of independence, mobility, companionship and dignity.

  • For more information regarding the Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind, visit the website at www.guidedog.org.za.
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