Best year yet for service dog walk

Published June 8, 2016
By Sarah Desforges

On May 29, the Ear Falls Lions Club hosted its’ fourth annual Purina Dog Walk for Dog Guides. Preceded by a Lions club breakfast, the registered walkers came ready to walk their dogs regardless of the rainy weather outside.

Every four to six weeks the local Lions club puts together a hot breakfast Sunday morning at Whispering Pines Seniors Club that is open to the community. Their main cooks are local volunteers Doreen Williamson and Heather Gamble. Each plate is bought by donation, and then put towards Lions club projects around town. This week’s donations went to the Dog Walk fundraiser.

Joanne and Bill Kay had attended the Purina Dog Walk in Dryden before deciding to put together one in Ear Falls. As of 2016, they have organized a walk every year for the last four years. Each year Whispering Pines has opened their doors to serve as a base for registration, and to be a starting point. The Lions club also serves hot dogs to the walkers upon return.

This year’s fundraiser was Ear Falls’ most well attended year, according to Joanne. The final total raised was $6,310.05, that’s $2,000 more than last year. The weather was chilly and rainy, but regardless approximately 35 people and their dogs came to show their support.

A special group of walkers to note were the `Paw Patrol` team. Kylie Sutton`s grade two class from the Ear Falls Public School took a special interest in the Service Dog fundraiser. Each student wrote letters to the businesses in town to ask for donations and raised a combined total of $1,520.05! Their biggest contributors were Copperfin Credit Union and Goldcorp who both donated $500, and the Trillium Hotel who donated $100.

Joanne and Bill’s son Matthew got his own service dog when he was just five years old in 2011. The dog, named Secret, is a female Labrador retriever cross with a golden retriever. She is trained as an Autism guide dog, whose main job is to be an anchor to keep Matthew from running away. She is also a constant companion for Matthew. “She keeps him calm,” says his mother Joanne, “off leash they are the best of friends. They just like to run and play together.”

Training service dogs is a long and sometimes expensive job; but thanks to fundraisers like the Purina Dog Walk, dog guides can be provided at no cost to qualified applicants. Often foster puppies are used; giving them basic training in their first year, then pacing them into their respective program based on temperament and training. Service dogs are put into six categories: Canine Vision, Hearing Ear, Autism Assistance, Service Dog, Seizure Response, and Diabetic Alert. Each dog is then trained to fit the individual needs of the applicant.

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