School for guide dogs needs help

The Barrie Examiner - - NEWS - MEHREEN SHAHID POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Zappa sits silently in her corner ap­pear­ing dis­in­ter­ested in the other dogs yap­ping and play­ing around her.

Seem­ingly nap­ping, out of the corner of her eye, the six-year-old black Labrador keenly watches Bev Knight’s ev­ery move­ment and springs into ac­tion as soon as she is called to work.

“She’s my eyes,” said the Oril­lia res­i­dent, who re­lies on Zappa to be able to move around safely out­side the house. “When I’m out, she’s guid­ing me and keeps me safe. I hold on to the har­ness as she goes for­ward and walks and I fol­low. From her move­ments, I can tell if there is some­thing in the way. She just keeps me 100% safe.”

Zappa also ac­com­pa­nies Knight when she goes out to pick up the funds col­lected in the Cana­dian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) money banks placed in eight lo­ca­tions around Oril­lia.

“I’ve done this for about six years,” said the Oril­lia res­i­dent, who was di­ag­nosed with re­tini­tis pig­men­tosa in 1980, and has pro­gres­sively lost sight in both her eyes ever since.

But this year, fight­ing a di­ag­no­sis of ter­mi­nal leukemia, Knight, 82, is look­ing to the com­mu­nity for help in car­ry­ing on the cause for the guide dogs school.

“I am busy for two weeks of a month tak­ing chemo and I take the other two weeks to get over it,” she said. “And I have to do blood work dur­ing the in be­tween time. So I’m not find­ing the time to do it. My hus­band has ad­vanced de­men­tia, he’s not as good at it ei­ther.

It’s not a lot of work, but it has to be done, said Knight, hop­ing some­one will come for­ward and com­mit to tak­ing it over from her.

“I’m will­ing to train them, and I have peo­ple who will show them how to do it,” she said, adding the vol­un­teer will also be re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the life­like dog banks clean. “The money has to be col­lected about four times a year and has to be counted and taken to the bank. You have to keep track of each store, be­cause the stores are a lit­tle bit com­pet­i­tive. There’s a lit­tle bit of pride there.”

The funds go to the guide dog school to train dogs and pro­vide other ser­vices to the vis­ually im­paired.

Easy enough as the task sounds, the ef­fects of the do­na­tions and col­lec­tions can mean giv­ing back some­one their in­de­pen­dence.

“I didn’t get a guide dog un­til 1997,” said Knight, adding ini­tially she tried us­ing a cane be­fore she de­cided to ap­ply for a dog guide.

“It gave me my in­de­pen­dence back,” she said. “I can go out­side that front door and any­where, no prob­lems.”

As a rule, when the har­ness is on, the dog is work­ing and peo­ple are not sup­posed to pet it or talk to it to pre­vent from dis­tract­ing them from their task, ex­plained Knight.

“With me at the hospi­tal now, she is in har­ness all the time and peo­ple do come up and ask me if they can pet her,” she said. “I say, ‘yes,’ be­cause it’s a long wait not to get any at­ten­tion. It’s not as though it dis­turbs her. She is well-trained. She is even on duty when she’s get­ting pet­ted. She likes it, but when I tell her to go for­ward she will leave the pet­ting to get go­ing.”

To learn more about this op­por­tu­nity, Knight can be reached at her cell phone 705-321-8623, and her su­per­vi­sor, Steve Doucette, with CGDB, can be reached at 613692-7777. mshahid@post­media.com

MEHREEN SHAHID/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Bev Knight, 82, plays with her dog guide, Zappa, a six-year-old Labrador, at her house on West­mount Drive. Di­ag­nosed with leukemia, Knight is no longer able to carry on col­lect­ing funds for the Cana­dian Guide Dogs for the Blind and is look­ing for a vol­un­teer to take up the man­tle.

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