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Lions Club set to host guide dog fund-raiser

CHRISTINE LANK, GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
The Lions Club is hosting the second annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides on Sunday, May 6 at Pincher Creek.
Registration gets under way at 2:30 p.m. at the Pincher Creek arena.
Walks such as the one in Pincher Creek are the primary source of fund-raising for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guide Program.
They train five different types of dog guides: vision, hearing, special needs, seizure response and autism assistance.
All money raised goes to the training of dog guides with no administration costs.
There are 11 service dogs in Southern Alberta that are provided free to individuals who qualify for a dog.
After the walk, there will be hotdogs, snacks and some door prizes donated by local merchants and individuals.
Participants are urged to collect pledges in advance to assist fund-raising.
“Dog is man’s best friend” is an adage that described the relationship between a person and their service dog.
A wonderful example of this relationship is that of Bill Brown and his guide Dog, Jax.
Jax is a Standard Poodle, with wool rather than hair, so is ideal for people with allergies such as Brown.
Traditional guide dogs are Labradors and Retrievers.
Brown, formerly of Pincher Creek, was born with a visual impairment but this did not stop him from living a full, productive life. He is a positive, high-energy person who is always busy.
Brown enjoyed a 37-year career with CNIB, living and working in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.
In 1995 Bill became the test person for the first Standard Poodle guide dog in Canada — trained at the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides School in Oakville, Ont.
Three successful relationships have followed, Reno, for nine years, Rocko for eight years and now Jax, who was bred and raised at the school.
Having their own breeding program helps to ensure a supply of high quality dogs to meet demand. The Lions Foundation of Canada has been training and providing dogs to Canadians for 28 years.
There is no government funding, so the school operates solely on corporate, community and individual donations. The walk for dog guides has become a major source of funding for the school.
Training costs are about $25,000. The dogs are provided at no cost to qualified applicants.
Students and their families attend the school for one to four weeks to work with their dog. There is a follow-up by the school to ensure a good pairing. The health of the dog is also monitored.
Bill Brown has been a Lion since 1976. When he and Lynda came to Lethbridge, they initiated the first walk in 2002 which raised $8,500 and has been increasing every year, raising $50,700 in 2011.
The goal for 2012 is to regain the No. 1 spot from Toronto. Pincher Creek is a satellite of Lethbridge and raised over $7,000 in 2011.
Pledge forms are on-line at www.purinawalkfordogguides.com.

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