Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: January 15, 2024

The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides is in need of foster families to prepare future dog guides to help people with disabilities.

The organization has facilities in Oakville and Breslau. There, they train pups to one day become dog guides, at no cost to the people they serve.

“We work with standard poodles, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers,” said Maria Galindo, the organization’s communications manager in an interview with CBC News.

Galindo said that instead of the typical “guide dogs” name, her organization flips it to call them “dog guides,” because the canines they train do far more than just guide the blind. In fact, they train their dogs to work in one of seven different service classifications:

  • Canine Vision, for the visually impaired.
  • Hearing, for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
  • Seizure response.
  • Service, typically for those with disabilities.
  • Autism assistance.
  • Diabetes alert.
  • Facility support, to work in professional settings with those who’ve experienced trauma.

Galindo said her organization has 30 dogs that still need foster homes. Foster families have to live close to one of their two facilities and Waterloo region fits the bill, she said.

But fostering a future dog guide isn’t quite so simple.

“Our training program is not extreme, but it is quite rigorous,” Galindo said. “We want these dogs to eventually help someone with a disability and that’s a lot of responsibility.”

Foster families are expected to train their charge in socialization skills and obedience, Galindo said. This means exposing the dog to as many environments as possible and teaching them basic commands like “sit” and “wait”.

“You have to obviously not leave the dog alone for more than three hours, and you have to commit to the training.”

‘A feeling that’s indescribable’

Galindo said that she understands the time commitment fostering a future dog guide has, but for some that take the leap, they never look back.

“We have foster families that do it over and over again,” she said. “We have families that are going on their 30th puppy.”

Galindo said the reason people keep coming back is because they see the future their foster dog guide has.

“Although it’s incredibly difficult, they see who that dog is going to. They get to meet that person,” she said.

“They get to see it in person, the impact the dog is making. And that’s a feeling that’s indescribable.”

Those that are up to the challenge of fostering a future dog guide can learn more at The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides website.