Tails wagged, mouths panted and barks were heard for their fellow Canadian guide dogs on May 26.
Four-legged friends and their owners gathered at the 100 Mile Visitor Centre for a walk around the marsh in efforts to raise money for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
“The dogs give these people their lives back,” said Ingrid Meyer, the Mile 108 Lions’ director of membership and an organizer for Sunday’s fundraiser.
Including donations made online, over $2,000 was raised this year. Meyer said all of the funds raised will be going to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. The organization is solely run from donations, they do not receive funding from the government.
“The dog walk that’s happening today across Canada is what is helping pay for the dogs,” said Beau Bierhaus, a Type 1 diabetic from Vancouver, who attended the walk in 100 Mile House.
“Each dog is roughly $25,000 and the (entire) costs are covered for people who are able to get a guide dog. It’s not about people who can just afford it, it’s for everybody.”
The organization’s headquarters and training facility is based out of Oakville, Ontario, where qualified applicants are flown in from around Canada to meet their dog and receive training.
“They pay for your flight, accommodations, meals, the dog and the training,” Bierhaus said.
Bierhaus was not the only Type 1 diabetic in attendance at the fundraiser. There was Stuart Blundell, who brought his guide dog Balta to the walk. Blundell, along with his wife, two daughters and Balta live here in the South Cariboo. He said his wife found out about guide dogs, roughly three years ago, after watching a documentary.
“She was curious if there were dogs for diabetics after she found out there was, she got the ball rolling and that was that,” Blundell said. “It took about two years from the time I applied until I got the dog. I have had her since November and we’ve been a team ever since.”
Blundell said his dog has changed his life, making it much easier to control his disability.
“When I go to bed, that is usually the scariest time because you can fall asleep and not know that your blood pressure is going low. You might not wake up,” Blundell said. “She has a bed right beside mine and she can jump up and paw me when my blood sugar goes low. When it does go low, it brings off this scent and she can smell that scent before it even gets to that level. She can tell when my blood sugar is dropping and let me know before it gets to a level that is life-threatening.”
Guide dogs give their owners a sense of independence – keeping them in check without constantly having to worry about it themselves. Balta is with Blundell almost everywhere he goes.
“My dog will wake me up four to five times a week,” Blundell said. “She catches it all of the time, especially when I am at work. There are times where I can’t take her everywhere, but she does not like that.”
Bierhaus said there is sometimes a misconception, that it’s cruel to have guide dogs and that they only serve one purpose.
“It varies from family to family,” she said.
Blundell said his dog lives a normal life. When Balta has her red vest on, she knows when “it’s time for business.”
“Events like this are important,” Blundell said, noting more awareness needs to be raised. “Not a lot of people know about them or are fully aware of what they are capable of. They aren’t just seeing-eye dogs, they are more than that. Even your partner can’t foresee things like the dog can.”
Blundell was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 16 years old.
“I have never had it so under control, since having my dog.”