Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides set for Woodbine Beach on June 23

Alison Brown and her dog guide Ellis. Photo: Submitted.

By RICARDO VIGLIANO

We all navigate uncertainties in our everyday lives. Most of us would take this idea metaphorically, but not those who live with a visual impairment.

Alison Brown used to live in fear of bumping into people, falling over things, and hurting herself every single day that she went out. Her life outdoors caused constant anxiety and frustration until she met Ellis, a female service dog that made her life easier.

Thanks to Ellis, Alison can navigate around things that might cause her injury, from a minor collision to a serious accident. Whether the sidewalks are crowded with people or full of garbage bins, Ellis always helps Alison safely avoid obstacles.

“It is almost like someone saying ‘let’s go this way and this way,’” said Alison.

Life also became more fun. When Alison used a cane, she never felt safe to go to a movie theatre or an art gallery. She would hesitate because of the crowds and the dark.

“I don’t see anything at all in the dark and I would certainly avoid going out after dark,” she said.

Her life changed six months ago when she and Ellis graduated from the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guide Centre, in Oakville. Ellis was trained through the Canine Vision program, one of the seven programs to prepare dogs to work with specific medical conditions or physical disabilities.

Alison is grateful to take part in the program that provides the dog, training and follow up at no cost. “The average cost of a Dog Guide is around $25,000.”

Alison is also excited about the Toronto Beaches Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides taking place on Sunday, June 23 at Woodbine Beach.

The event is a national fundraising walk held in approximately 300 communities across Canada. Each walk is organized by local volunteers with support from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides and Pet Valu stores.

“I know the Beaches community will pull together to make our own local event a success.”

Living in the area for about 10 years, Alison praised the great opportunity for people in the community to get to know the important roles played by dog guides.

“Most people know how dogs can make loving, loyal companions as pets, but many don’t know how a Dog Guide can really improve a person’s life in terms of safety, mobility, increased independence, and confidence.”

Alison believes that it’s difficult for many people to truly understand what it’s like to experience such things as hearing or vision loss or to imagine the stress that comes along with an unpredictable drop in blood sugar or having a seizure.

“For me, having Ellis it’s like having a hand to hold and reassurance that everything will be OK.”

Registrations for the event begins at 9 a.m. and the walk starts at 10 a.m. Starting point for the walk will be Woodbine Beach’s Picnic Area 1. For specific information on the Beach walk, please email pv2167@petvalu.com

The funds raised from the event go directly towards the raising, training, and placement of Dog Guides for Canadians with disabilities. The walk raised close to $1.3 million in 2018.

For more information on dog guides and the walk in general, please visit www.walkfordogguides.com


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