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Guide Dogs celebrates Graduation Day by recognising the ‘supPAWt’ provided by the class of 2021

December 16, 2021

Guide Dogs Victoria is celebrating its annual Graduation Day by honouring the fantastic support provided by all dogs that graduated this year, not just those selected for the namesake occupation.

In total 64 dogs graduated as part of Guide Dogs Victoria’s class of 2021, all going on to make a positive impact in the lives of Australians. While many have become life changing Guide Dogs, providing freedom and independence to people with low vision or blindness, others have taken on just as important roles as Therapy Dogs, Assistance Dogs, Ambassador Dogs or Breeding Dogs that will help produce the next generation.

In particular, all dogs that graduated through Guide Dogs Victoria’s training program have played a crucial role in providing individuals with comfort, emotional support and companionship through what has been a challenging year for so many.

Guide Dogs Client Rob Fletcher, who has Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy was recently paired with his Guide Dog Hamish and agrees that the support and companionship he has provided throughout the last year is unparalleled.

“Life has been so much easier since receiving Hamish even during lockdown when we just travelled within the local area, I could name a location and Hamish would get me there safely. The locals all love Hamish too, he’s brought a smile to a lot of people’s faces during the pandemic! I feel very safe and independent with Hamish by my side.”

“As we approach the end of another difficult year, we are so proud of all our graduating dogs who continue to make an extraordinary contribution to those living with low vision and blindness, especially during the tougher months in lockdown,” said Karen Hayes, CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria.

“This year we are also recognising the fantastic organisations we have partnered with to maximise the support we can offer to the community – organisations like Integra Service Dogs Australia, Ms Hayes said.

Thirteen dogs trained by Guide Dogs Victoria have gone on to become Assistance Dogs provided through Integra, and carefully matched with a Veteran or First Responders suffering from PTSD.

“Through Integra’s collaborative partnership with Guide Dogs, these recruited dogs provide unconditional support through the trauma and stresses of everyday life,” said Ben Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Integra Service Dogs Australia.

“Especially during the past few years which have been uncertain, unfamiliar and posed a whole new set of challenges to our Clients. We have seen an increase in graduating dogs join us from Guide Dogs this year because of the unparalleled assistance they provide throughout these times.”

Integra Client and former Army Officer Vanessa agrees that the support provided by her reclassified dog Baz has had a life-changing impact since they have been matched.

“In 2021 I was fortunate to be paired with Baz and he has completely changed my world. I will retire from the Army this month after 24 rewarding yet demanding years in service, and phasing into retirement with Baz just feels so much easier as he completely understands my mental limitations,” she said.

“Leaving the Army is more than just taking off the uniform–it’s a complete loss of identity, Baz has given me back structure, routine, and sense of purpose again and most importantly unconditional love and companionship. Going into the next stage of life especially during already uncertain times, seem much more achievable with Baz by my side.”

It takes $50,000 to breed, raise and train just one Guide Dog. For more information on how you can support Guide Dogs Victoria’s vital work, visit www.guidedogs.com.au



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