Red Puppy appeal breeds freedom How to help
Verna Walcott has had her talkative guide dog Oram for nearly three years and reckons she’d be lost without him.
The Weymouth massage therapist says she can see some types of light but “having a guide dog just makes things easier”.
Oram’s a good worker and a good companion, not to mention chatty. He “talks” by making a sort of quacking sound.
“We went to the opening of the guide dog breeding centre last year and he basically talked the whole four hours, right through the speeches. Afterwards a lady went past and said: ‘Oh, I thought it was a duck’.”
Ms Walcott is very close to the labrador.
“It’s just the two of us. When I work out in the garden he’s right there. I’ve had different guide dogs since I was 19 and without them my lifestyle would totally change. Having Oram means total independence for me.”
Oram’s main job is helping Ms Walcott get from A to B – “getting out, catching buses, finding places”.
He’s quick at picking up tasks and is “generally” well-behaved.
“Sometimes when he sees other dogs he thinks: ‘Hey, maybe we could play,’ but no,” she laughs.
Oram goes to work with Ms Walcott, where he stays on his blanket but gets up to greet his favourite customers.
“I have a successful business as a massage therapist and I think sometimes The Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s Red Puppy Appeal runs until Sunday and aims to raise more than $1 million to fund its guide dog services.
The foundation provides guide dogs to its members for free but each dog costs more than $22,500 to breed, raise, train and match to a blind person. It receives no government funding for guide dog services.
Donate $3 by texting RED to 2450 or $20 by calling 0900 RED PUPPY, or online at www.redpup py.org.nz. being blind is an advantage because clients think I have a more sensitive touch.” Clients also love Oram, she says. Her first two dogs worked until they were 14 but she’s never singled out a favourite.
“They’re all different personalities and each one has been at a different stage of my life.”
Ms Walcott says she’s extremely grateful to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind’s guide dog services.
“It’s a great service and it’s well run. I’ve always found them absolutely wonderful.”
Now she’s urging the public to donate generously to the Red Puppy Appeal “to give someone a better chance of a much more independent life”.