Dogs guiding people through life

Lisa Goudy
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(From left): Gordon Ziegler, the Saskatchewan director for the Lions Foundation of Canada, Helen Fox, a member of the Moose Jaw Lions' Club, and Bob McKenty, member of the Moose Jaw Lions' Club pose for a photo at Regina Beach this past weekend. The club and an anonymous donor donated $30,000 to support the Lions Foundation of Canada dog guides program.

Moose Jaw Lions Club donates to dog guides program

There are six different dog guides to help people with a medical or physical disability.

The Lions Foundation of Canada is a national charity created by Lions Clubs in Canada to provide dog guides. The Moose Jaw Lions Club recently donated $10,000 to help purchase and train more dogs for the program. There was also a $20,000 anonymous donation. The total amount donated to the program is $30,000. The donation was made at Regina Beach on the Dedication Day for the memorial forest this past weekend.

“These dogs are available for free to recipients,” said Bob McKenty, a Moose Jaw Lion. “Someone paid $50,000 for a service dog and we’d like to make it clear that our services are free.”

The program doesn’t receive any government funding, which is why donations are so important. The Moose Jaw Lions Club currently has 15 members.

McKenty said it costs $25,000 to raise and train each dog guide.

There are six dog guide programs. Canine vision dog guides are trained to navigate streets, stairs, escalators and other obstacles to help people who are blind or visually impaired.

Hearing ear dog guides aid individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The dogs respond to sounds like alarm clocks, a ringing phone and the fire alarm. If the handler uses sign language, the dog responds to hand signals.

Special skills dog guides assist people with a physical disability and are trained to open and close doors, retrieve dropped items and get help when required.

Seizure response dog guides are trained to bark for help, activate an alert system and provide comfort after a seizure. They are for people who have frequent epileptic seizures.

Diabetic alert dog guides are trained to help anyone with type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness. Through scent, the dogs detect sudden drops in the handler’s blood sugar level. They bark for help, can activate an alert system, can get food and can provide comfort after a hypoglycemic episode.

Autism assistance dog guides aid children with autism by bonding, providing calming relief for children in high anxiety situations and reducing stress often experienced in public.

The Lions Foundation of Canada dog guide program started in 1983 in Oakville, Ont.

“At the time it was originated, all they did were seeing eye dogs,” said McKenty. “Since that time, they’ve expanded their program to involve six kinds of dogs … The diabetes awareness dog was the last one that originated. The first class graduated from that school this spring.”

He said this year there are 153 dogs trained for assistance, a number he described as “fantastic.” About 14 years ago, there were 80 trained dogs.

“Although we do get dogs donated to the program, I suppose about 80 per cent of the dogs that we train are our own bred dogs,” said McKenty.

McKenty said for information on eligibility for the program, people can talk to any Lions’ Club member.

“If you came to me and I thought you were a good candidate, I would phone Oakville and talk to somebody in Oakville and in turn, they would come back and talk to you,” he said. “They would come out and visit you in your home. If you get a dog … they might come out in eight months to a year after you’ve got the dog to make sure everything is good.”

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Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.


Organizations: Moose Jaw Lions Club, Lions Foundation of Canada, Lions Clubs

Geographic location: Canada, Moose Jaw, Oakville

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