A message from Marita
Welcome to the winter edition of Guide Dog Tales! My name is Marita and I work at Guide Dogs Victoria as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. Every day I get to work with our Clients to help them achieve more independence in their lives.
I have worked at Guide Dogs Victoria for over 30 years. I have worked in our Kennels as a volunteer, in the Puppy Raising team and now as a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. I am still learning new things every day and love coming in to work knowing that we’re changing the lives of our Clients who have low vision or blindness.
You may be wondering what a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor is. We are a group of qualified instructors who help our Clients use their Guide Dogs to get to the places they need to go. We work with our Clients and their Guide Dogs to learn routes that they will use in their everyday lives. This may include going to the local shopping centre, going to work or travelling on public transport. Each Client is different and the training therefore needs to be specifically tailored to their needs.
As you may know, one of the most crucial steps of a Guide Dog’s journey is matching with a Client. This is the person that they are going to be guiding and working with for the rest of their working lives. I get the privilege to work alongside our Clients to match them with the perfect dog for their needs. It can be hard to find the perfect match, but when you do the bond is electric.
Although the past couple of years have been hard, our impact on Clients’ lives has never wavered. We have worked extra hard to be there for our Clients, whether it be matching them with a new Guide Dog, retraining with their existing Guide Dog along new routes or just being a listening ear. It is as rewarding as ever.
I want to finish off by saying thank you to all of our wonderful Guide Dogs Victoria supporters. Without you, my team and I would not be able to do the work that we do. Thank you for the support that enables us to provide greater independence for people with low vision or blindness.
Mobility Instructor Guide Dogs Victoria
Vale Merle Atherton
It is with much sadness that we farewelled one of our much-loved Otus Fellowship members and long-time volunteer, Merle Atherton, in February this year.
Merle commenced volunteering with Guide Dogs Victoria in 1993 and volunteered actively until 2018 before she became unwell and went into care. However, she continued to support Guide Dogs Victoria, as the work we do was one of her great loves.
Merle even had a huge amount of Guide Dogs Victoria memorabilia around her room as this gave her great happiness.
As well as being a campus tour guide and a Temporary Carer for our pups in training, Merle was the long-term carer of the one and only Otus – the incredible Guide Dogs Victoria Stud Dog that the Otus Fellowship was named after!
Otus was an amazing Stud Dog who produced an incredible 245 pups over his career. In 2007, the Otus Fellowship was set up for our bequestors and Merle was very proud to be part of this special group.
She was a great ambassador of the Fellowship, appearing on our website to tell her and Otus’ story, and also solidifying her commitment by leaving a lasting legacy in her Will to Guide Dogs Victoria.
Merle was Otus’ constant companion and carer throughout his working life, always at the ready to bring Otus to our campus and delivering pups to new Puppy Raisers – settling the pup into his or her new home and giving the new Raisers guidance and encouragement as they embarked on their new volunteer role.
Merle was one of the most positive people and always a joy to chat to. She was much loved by staff and volunteers at Guide Dogs Victoria and is greatly missed, but we know she would be so proud of the impact of the Fellowship named for her special boy, Otus.
Partnership with St Kilda Victorian Blind Football League
We are so thrilled that Guide Dogs Victoria is an official partner of the St Kilda Blind Football Club for the 2022 Victorian Blind Football League (VBFL) season!
St Kilda’s Community Engagement Manager, Bridie Murphy, said: “We are extremely excited to welcome Guide Dogs Victoria on board as a partner for the 2022 VBFL season. They do such important work, and we are looking forward to building a partnership alongside them to not only support the VBFL side, but also build pathways for people with a disability to be involved in AFL across all levels of the game.”
Many Guide Dogs Victoria staff members have already attended Blind Football League matches, and we’re hoping this exciting partnership will entice even more of the Guide Dogs community along to support these extraordinary players – including Guide Dogs Victoria Client Kadek, who we will share a bit more about later.
We have been so thrilled to support all of Kadek’s ventures, and are so proud to now be able to support him and his VBFL teammates throughout the 2022 VBFL season.
The N litter pups are back and ready to show off their skills
Recently the N litter pups returned to the campus to undergo Guide Dog assessment training.
There are 12 pups in the N litter; they have now all come back to the kennels to show off the skills they had learnt over the past 18 months with their Puppy Raisers. These pups have been followed by our Puppy Pals from their birth in the Nursery to mum Ella, through their Puppy Raising journey and now throughout their Guide Dog Training.
To become a Puppy Pal and follow the journey of a litter of puppies from birth right through to graduation please visit vic.guidedogs.com.au/puppy-pals or email our friendly team on email@example.com to find out more!
It costs more than $50,000 to breed, raise and train just one Guide Dog puppy and with hundreds being trained each year, every dollar raised throughout PAWGUST counts. The funds you raise during PAWGUST will go towards the breeding, raising and training of the next generation of working Guide Dogs so that we can create a world where everyone who needs a Guide Dog, has a Guide Dog.
As well as helping Guide Dogs organisations around the country transform lives, PAWGUST participants (and their dogs!) will gain physical and mental health benefits from the challenge, leading to happier and healthier lives all round.
Last year PAWGUST participants raised a record-breaking $1.7 million dollars for Guide Dogs Australia – that’s enough to breed, raise and train 34 Guide Dog puppies across the country! So, don’t delay, sign up today at pawgust.com.au and receive your free PAWdometer when you raise $29 within the first 48 hours of registering.
Events are back
Reflection on our recent bequestor morning tea
The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus caused significant concerns in the community and due to this, Guide Dogs had to make the decision to move to virtual events. Now that the world is moving forward, with appropriate guidelines and safety measures we are glad to have our face-to-face events back again!
In April this year, the Gifts in Wills Team held our first morning tea in over two years at the Kew Golf Club. We were thrilled to see and connect with so many of our wonderful supporters and Otus Fellowship members; updating them on the services and programs they have supported over the past 12 months!
We had our wonderful long-term volunteers, Angela and Loretta help out on the day and of course our incredible Ambassador Dogs Rafa and Zolde who worked the room! Client Melaine Robinson and her beautiful Guide Dog Dessau spoke of their personal journey and how they are a match made in heaven.
We also heard from Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, Justin Marshall who spoke of the incredible work he and his team have undertaken; working to support our Clients during the pandemic, and the difference the generosity of all of our supporters has made to the lives of hundreds of Clients.
We remain eternally grateful for the support and patience the wider Guide Dogs community has shown to our organisation over the past two years and are looking forward to seeing you in person again soon!
Guide Dogs promotes “Rethink Refusal” this International Guide Dog Day
Wednesday 27 April 2022 was International Guide Dog Day, a day to celebrate the important role Guide Dogs play in supporting people all around the world with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals and live independently.
This year, our Rethink Refusal campaign aimed to educate businesses, industries and the wider community on how a Guide Dog refusal can have serious implications for the immediate safety of a person with low vision or blindness.
In a new survey by Guide Dogs Australia ahead of International Guide Dog Day, over a third of Guide Dog Handlers across Australia reported being denied access to a public venue or form of transport because of their Guide Dog in the past year.
Alarmingly, the same proportion reported a discriminatory refusal left them feeling unsafe or in danger. Taxis or rideshares were responsible for the majority of instances where Handlers reported their safety was compromised, followed by cafés, restaurants and bars, and retail outlets.
Around half of Handler respondents said they had been left stranded in an unfamiliar or wrong location, with a similar proportion reporting being verbally mistreated during the refusal incident.
In response, Guide Dogs Australia asked businesses, industries and all community members to “Rethink Refusal” and ensure that Handlers continue to experience the safety, freedom and independence a Guide Dog is meant to bring them.
As part of the Rethink Refusal campaign, Guide Dogs and 13cabs once again partnered to create a video and resources that highlight the ongoing importance of education amongst the service industries.
Watch the campaign video and our interviews with the 13cabs team, and hear from our Clients about their experiences at guidedogs.com.au/international-guide-dog-day-2022.
Remember Kadek’s ride to raise money for GDV?
You may remember last year that we spotlighted Kadek and his incredible achievements raising over $15,000 for Guide Dogs Victoria. Well in 2022, Kadek is at it again; this time riding a round trip from Melbourne to Adelaide.
This ride will be over 14 days and cover 1,400km in total. Kadek is also looking for people to join him on this ride as ‘pilot riders’; these are people who ride on the front of the tandem bike and steer for Kadek while he rides.
The ride will be held in October and promises to be the experience of a lifetime. If you would like to support Kadek on this year’s ride, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about Kadek and his inspirational story, click here to see his most recent feature on the House of Wellness.
Happy watching and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on Kadek’s upcoming mammoth ride!
An update on Ezra
Ezra, our five-year-old superhero Client who we introduced you to at Christmas last year, was keen to share what he has been up to!
At Christmas, Ezra’s mum, Laura, shared with us her family’s journey from despair to hope and the transformation in her son from the moment he was connected with Guide Dogs, after being diagnosed at just one year of age with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia (underdeveloped optic nerves) and Septo-Optic Dysplasia (a combination of underdeveloped optic nerves and pituitary gland dysfunction).
We are so proud of how Ezra is going. He has been working hard on recognising letters and learning how to dress himself, all of which helps Ezra become more independent now and in the future. He is even writing his name now, well done Ezra!
Rebecca, an Early Childhood Practitioner at Guide Dogs, has visited Ezra at kindergarten, to monitor his progress and see if there are any changes that can be made to his environment to further his development in preparation for his transition into primary school next year. Although there have been challenges along the way; from struggling to adapt to remote speech therapy sessions due to COVID-19 to a hospital visit and ongoing vision assessments, Ezra is thriving and we are incredibly proud of him!
“Guide Dogs has continued to support us with everything and are always checking up on Ezra and us to see what support we need.” – Laura, Ezra’s mum.
Your support helps provide pathways for children just like Ezra so that they can participate in activities, build confidence and experience all that life has to offer. Thank you for helping ensure that their future is bright!
Partnership with Guide Dogs NSW/ACT produces three Guide Dogs for Victorians
COVID-19 restrictions drastically limited the number of Guide Dog Trainers allowed at our Kew campus and our pups were one group of students who couldn’t be home schooled!
That is when the true spirit of collaboration and innovation shared by Guide Dog organisations really came to the fore, with Guide Dogs NSW/ ACT stepping in to help in our pups’ progress. Six pups in training were driven up to Guide Dogs NSW/ACT in August 2020 where Guide Dog Trainer, Gina, greeted them. Zadek, Zenda, Zosh, Carla, Watson and Volku quickly settled into their new homes where they would spend the next three months being cared for – and of course put through their paces- by Gina and the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT team.
By November 2020, five of the pups had taken steps towards their new careers with two places as Therapy Dogs in NSW, and three returning to Victoria, ready for their final assessment to become fully qualified Guide Dogs.
This was a huge achievement, not only for our Trainers across both states, but for the volunteer Puppy Raisers who had opened their homes and hearts to these pups who then faced an uncertain time once COVID-19 restrictions tightened. Most importantly, the strong bond we share with other Guide Dog organisations – both nationally and internationally – led to improved outcomes for our Clients.
One of these Clients was James, who was matched with Zenda. Zenda was chosen to be a Therapy Dog through Guide Dog Victoria’s partnership with Integra Service Dogs Australia, who give some of our dogs extra training so that they can provide security and emotional support to Veterans or First Responders suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
James suffers from complex PTSD, Soldier Schema, Anxiety and Depression after leaving the Australian Defence Force. Since being partnered with Zenda, James says he has learned to slow down: “Zenda teaches me more than I teach him. Zenda helps me to stop and get grounded when I am triggered and best of all Zenda gives me a good laugh when I need it. Most veterans don’t have the finance to afford the expense of training a service dog. Thanks to services like Integra Service Dogs Australia and Guide Dogs Victoria we are receiving professional service dogs.”
To learn more about our Therapy Dog program please visit vic.guidedogs.com.au/therapy-dogs.
The Future is in Sight
We are so excited to share the progress of Stage 2 of our campus redevelopment. The Vet Clinic and Café are nearing completion with the fit-out of the vet tenancy also in its final stages by our tenant, Advanced Vetcare.
The Vet Clinic includes consulting rooms, operating theatres, oncology, x-ray facilities and kennels for up to 60 animals.
Advanced Vetcare which is due to open in mid 2022, will offer specialist veterinary medicine, surgery and oncology to the community.
The café as part of Stage 2 will also be opening soon and will be open to the public allowing customers to sit, relax and take in the great view from the Kew campus. Who knows, you may even be able to see a Guide Dog in training walking along the river on a training walk!
Launched late June and produced by the creators of Bondi Vet and Mega Zoo, the eight- part series follows the Guide Dog journey from birth to retirement; highlighting the dedicated volunteers and Trainers who play a special role in each dog’s development, and sharing the stories of people living with low vision or blindness who are matched with these life-changing dogs.
Head to the Bondi Vet YouTube channel to experience the love and dedication, the tears and triumphs, and the moments that make it all worthwhile as we see these beautiful dogs go on to transform lives.
Eveline Campain was a keen animal lover her whole life, having always had dogs in the family, birds and even horses.
When Eveline moved into a retirement village she wanted a dog for company and began adopting older dogs from BlueCross animal shelter, spoiling them throughout their final months or years.
When Eveline went into care, she still managed to surround herself with animals! She enjoyed many visits from her grandchildren with their pet guinea pigs, Chocolate and Willow who made several visits to her Aged Care home in a portable carry case and were even taken around the rooms of other residents for a cuddle. Eveline also had quite a few visits from family dogs, and the care centre had a visiting petting farm, a miniature pony called Malibu, and even chickens – and therefore a fresh supply of eggs! Eveline loved those days.
As you can see Eveline was a true animal lover, which is part of the reason she decided to leave a gift in her Will to Guide Dogs Victoria; supporting future generations of Guide Dogs and people living with low vision or blindness through her generosity.
Coles customers are helping to change lives, one coin at a time
They might not bark or wag their tails, but the iconic Guide Dogs Australia Donation Dogs at Coles are hard at work raising funds. In fact, since 1982, Coles shoppers have donated more than $11 million in loose change to Guide Dogs organisations around Australia. The money raised from the Donation Dogs, located at more than 800 Coles stores across the country, has supported the breeding, raising and training of hundreds of Guide Dogs for Australians who have low vision or blindness.
“We’re immensely proud of our long-standing partnership with Guide Dogs Australia to help people with low vision or blindness to stay connected to their communities. We’re also incredibly grateful to our customers and team members for helping to raise funds for such an important, trusted charity.” – Sally Fielke, General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Coles.
Coles has been involved with Guide Dogs Australia since the late 1930s when Lady Margaret Coles helped to establish a Guide Dogs Service in Australia. Since then, the partnership between Coles and Guide Dogs Australia has expanded to include hosting hundreds of Donation Dogs, selling reusable community bags to raise funds and implementing customer accessibility initiatives.
So when you are next shopping at Coles and have a coin or two… loose change is always welcomed!
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