Red Puppy ap­peal breeds free­dom How to help

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Han­nah Nor­ton

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 at­pup 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”.

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