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Guide dogs make a difference 0

By CYNDI MILLS, OBSERVER MULTIMEDIA JOURNALIST

Lion Judy Larmarche, chairperson for this year’s Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club Walk for Dog Guides, left, Lawrence Symons and Ricky the dog guide are preparing for the annual Lions Foundation of Canada Purina Walk for Dog Guides on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club. Ricky, a dog guide is Mr. Symons’ eyes. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.

Lion Judy Larmarche, chairperson for this year’s Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club Walk for Dog Guides, left, Lawrence Symons and Ricky the dog guide are preparing for the annual Lions Foundation of Canada Purina Walk for Dog Guides on Sunday, Sept. 9 at the Pembroke/Petawawa Lions Club. Ricky, a dog guide is Mr. Symons’ eyes. For more community photos please visit our website photo gallery at www.thedailyobserver.ca.

Receiving the gift of a dog guide saved Lawrence Symons’ life.

The local resident received Ricky, a Lions Foundation Dog Guide, almost two years ago and since that time he has experienced the gift of freedom with his teammate.

“Ricky has been the number one thing in my life,” said Mr. Symons.

He explained he has never let his disability get in his way, as he was born with a visual impairment. He admits it has been a struggle.

“I believed if I pushed the limits all the time I was bound to succeed.”

But pushing those limits included falling into ditches.

“I fought my whole life to not be disabled,” said Mr. Symons. So to admit he had a disability and needed help was a challenge Mr. Symons had to overcome before he would submit his name to the foundation for a dog guide.

However, getting off his “high horse” and receiving Ricky had given Mr. Symons the security to get out of the house and explore.

“I am not on edge anymore,” he said.

He notes Ricky’s largest task is waiting for him. As the pack leader, it is Mr. Symons’ job to give Ricky direction, plus care for him.

Along with training canine vision dog guides for people who are blind or visually impaired, the Lions Foundation also trains hearing ear dog guides for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, special skill dog guides for people with a medical or physical disability, seizure response dog guides for people who have epilepsy, and autism assistance dog guides for children aged 4-12 with autism spectrum disorder.

The Lions International covers all the costs to train and care for the dog, which comes with a hefty price tag of $20,000 to $25,000. The dogs are owned by the Lions Foundation, and when the dogs are retired, usually between the age of eight and 10, they are given back to the foundation, who places them in a home to live out their days.

The entire cost to train the dogs and their guides falls onto the Lions Foundation. The organization doesn’t receive any government funding and relies “heavily” on the support of service clubs, corporations, fundraisers, foundations and individuals for fundraising and sponsorship.

One way the foundation raises money is through the annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides, which takes place this Sunday, Sept. 9.

Pembroke-Petawawa Lions Club member Judy Lamarche said, “the walk helps provide the essential funding needed to allow the foundation to continue to provide Dog Guides at no cost to the people with disabilities each year.”

For the last three years Ms. Lamarche has organized the walk. This year’s walk takes place at the Pembroke-Petawawa Lions Club on 1163 Victoria Street in Petawawa. Participants will enjoy a walk to Centennial Park.

“Every little bit raised goes to pay for these wonderful animals,” noted Ms. Lamarche.

Participants are asked to pick up a sponsor sheet at the Canex, any Moncion location, Critters Munch and Crunch in Petawawa, Bright Eyes and Bushy Tails or people can contact Ms. Lamarche directly at 613-687-2651 for sponsor sheets. For more information visit www.purinawalkfordogguides. com.

Donations over $20 will receive a tax receipt. Registration for the walk begins at 12:30 p.m.

Cyndi Mills is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist. 

cyndi.mills@sunmedia.ca

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