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Stamford Lioness 6th annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides a success

Todd and his Dog Guide taking a break after a 3 km walk.
Todd and his Dog Guide taking a break after a 3 km walk.
Vikki Beswick

It was a beautiful June day set against a backdrop of Niagara Region vineyards for the dedicated walkers and their loyal human companions that met for the event reported on May 31 by the Toronto Relationships Examiner. This day was one where several relationships merged to honor one of the most selfless relationships of all. The relationship between human and dog. But even that selfless relationship was granted all that more meaning at The Stamford Lioness 6th Annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides on June 1 at Fireman's Park in Niagara Falls. This event was one that honored the relationship between a very special kind of dog, and very special kind of people. Approximately 14 dogs and their human walkers were in attendance for the Stamford Lioness 6th Annual Purina Walk for Dog Guides. Vikki Beswick District A-2 Lioness LFC Chair reports it was a success.

This will be the 6th annual walk for Dog Guides that the Stamford Lioness of Niagara Falls, Ont. have organized. Over the last 5 years the Stamford Lioness have raised approximately $18 thousand dollars for the Lions Foundation of Canada (LFC) who fund the Dog Guides. This year's event puts them over the $20 thousand dollar mark putting them very close the mark of the cost of one Dog Guide.

The Dog Guides relies on donations and fundraisers for operation, and the Purina Walk for Dog Guides is the largest fundraiser of the year, occurring in over 200 communities nation-wide and has raised over $10 million nationally since its inception.

Walks such as this one help people with disabilities all over Canada. As reported by the CBC, the Purina Walk for Dog Guides is just one effort of fundraising in Canada that helps children like 8-year-old Sophia from PEI. Sophia has the special needs of autism, and received a special friend named Sabreigh from the LFC Dog Guides to help assist her in social situations, and serve as a special relationship that helps Sophia bridge the gap between her needs and standard social conventions. The family received Sabreigh at no cost, and has described the experience as "a tremendous blessing".

The Lion's Foundation of Canada (LFC) manages and operates the Dog Guides of Canada training center in Oakville, Ont. This is the location where dogs that are chosen for such special jobs are trained for almost a full year, depending on their assignment, before they are given a special friend says Vikki Beswick District A-2 Lioness LFC Chair.

Vikki is not only the District A-2 Lioness LFC Chair, but also serves on the Executive as the Treasurer for the Stamford Lioness, and is the lead organizer for the Purina Walk for Dog Guides with the Stamford Lioness every year. Vikki also serves as the chair of the Mental Health Committee for the Stamford Lioness.

This will be the 6th year that Vikki has spearheaded the organization and management of the Stamford Lioness Purina Walk for Dog Guides. She says "it's an important event because it helps raise the awareness of LFC and brings LFC right into the community." The event is also critical when it comes to raising money for the Dog Guides of Canada.

Vikki says to fully train and place a Dog Guide to someone with special needs costs approximately $25 thousand dollars. Once a dog is chosen for a job, it goes to the Dog Guides training center where it is trained for anywhere from 8 months to one full year, depending on what job it will be given.

Once an applicant has been approved for a dog, they will meet the dog close to the end of their training and then stay with the dog in the Oakville, Ont. training center for a period of 2 to 4 weeks to learn the basics with their dog. This step helps the individual or the family to transition and bond with the Dog Guide, and learn critical skills, before taking them home.

The Lions Foundation of Canada does not just leave it at that, and works with the individual or the family through every stage of being a friend to a Dog Guide. Once the service dog reaches "retirement age", specialists with the LFC will work on an appropriate "career change" program for both the dog and the individual with special needs to transition effectively once again. Many service dogs are also adopted out at the end of their career.

The breeds most commonly used by the LFC Dog Guides are Labradors and poodles. Poodles are used most frequently by according to Vikki Beswick, for the Canadians that have hypoallergenic issues. Mostly Labradors are used as Canadian Dog Guides.

Dog Guides help thousands of families Canada wide in 6 different categories. The LFC Dog Guides assist with hearing, sight, autism assistance, seizure response, diabetic response (hypoglycemic unawareness), and service to those with a physical disability.

Autism affects 1 in 68 Canadians according to The Province and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind reports that 1 million Canadians suffer serious vision loss. In addition to those stats, Epilepsy Canada reports that 1 in 100 Canadians suffer from occasional seizures, and that 30% of those suffer from seizures that are drug resistant.

It is clear that the Stamford Lioness are committed to putting a dent in the work needed to help Canadian families in need.

The 6th Annual Stamford Purina Walk for Dog Guides raised an amount of $3900. Vikki also says there are still more donations to come in. This will put the total dollars raised since the Stamford Lioness began this event six years ago over the $20 thousand dollar mark.

The dogs of course were the stars of the show at the 6th Annual Stamford Lioness Purina Walk for Dog Guides, and the reason the event was such a record success. In attendance with tails a-wagging were Dino, Maggie, Max and Molly, Sammy, Roger, Chevy, Harley, Otis, and many more. Also in attendance were two guide dogs in training, and one official Dog Guide on duty with his friend Todd who has special vision needs.

The dedicated soldiers that make up the Stamford Lioness team that participated in and supported the success of the June 1 walk included Marilyn Trout, Joanne Butler, Marjie Rylett, Libby D'Abramo, Lynn Overton, Jill Baldin, Margaret Trout, Therese Heywood, Janie Kett, and Stamford Lioness President Twiggy Perry. Other dedicated participants that supported the canine miracles with paws were Nancy Chininea, Katie Beswick, Sheila Horwood, and Pam Ballah from Black Creek Lions.

Supporting the Stamford Lioness were the Stamford Lions, working the Charity BBQ portion of the event. Stamford Lions in attendance included Geoff Trout, Ross Trout, next year's President Frank Perry, Paul Rylett, and Dave Overton. Stamford Lion 'in training', Leo President Aaron Perry was also on hand to help with the event.

A successful day was had by all dogs and humans at the 6th Annual Stamford Lioness Purina Walk for Dog Guides. LFC Dog Guides serves approximately 150 families annually, but clearly the need is much bigger than that. With the funds from their largest fundraiser of the year, the LFC Dog Guides would not be able to continue putting canine soldiers to work for Canadians in need.

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