Walk­ing pup­pies is not al­ways love and sloppy kisses. talks to one woman help­ing train the next gen­er­a­tion of guide dogs.

DAILY GRIND

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Ev­ery day starts at 6am for Nicky Pin and Leila.

The Lynfield mum and 9-month-old pup gear up for a walk around the neigh­bour­hood or at an off-leash beach.

It’s a regular rou­tine but an im­por­tant one. Leila is train­ing to be­come a guide dog. She will be re­homed in the fu­ture to be some­one’s eyes in the com­mu­nity.

Pin says help­ing Leila gain con­fi­dence is a re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘Our big­gest role is peo­ple so­cial­is­ing, dog so­cial­is­ing and in­tro­duc­ing her to dif­fer­ent places, sounds, smells, en­vi­ron­ments – just to get her used to them.’’

Leila ex­pe­ri­ences ev­ery­day Auck­land life with the fam­ily, in­clud­ing vis­it­ing su­per­mar­kets, cafes and walk­ing to school with Pin’s kids.

‘‘It’s fine to take them ev­ery­where but you still have to know that you’re not go­ing to take a 12-week-old puppy straight into school to be sur­rounded by kids.

‘‘You’ve got to think about what you do with them. You’ve got to do what’s best for the dog.’’

Pin jug­gles look­ing af­ter her two pri­mary school aged boys with Leila’s daily rou­tine.

‘‘I kind of pri­ori­tise the dog,’’ Pin laughs.

‘‘You can still get the kids ready for school but you’ve still got to watch Leila. You can’t put any­thing on the ground – school­bags, any­thing like that – she’ll just get straight into things like that.’’

Ev­ery two weeks a trainer as­sesses Leila’s progress.

The Blind Foun­da­tion places up to 120 pup­pies a year with vol­un­teer walk­ers around New Zealand.

Af­ter 18 months the puppy then re­turns to the guide dog cen­tre in Wiri for fur­ther train­ing.

The pair have a tight bond al­ready and Pin says it will be sad when Leila has to leave. But she knows she is pro­vid­ing an im­por­tant com­mu­nity ser­vice.

The pup­pies are taught how to guide peo­ple around haz­ards, ne­go­ti­ate traf­fic, lo­cate com­mon des­ti­na­tions and travel on public trans­port.

The av­er­age work­ing life of a guide dog is eight to 10 years.

The Blind Foun­da­tion’s an­nual col­lec­tion is on March 27 and 28.

Funds raised dur­ing the 2015 Red Puppy Ap­peal will help breed and train more guide dogs for blind New Zealan­ders.

Photo: JESS ETHERIDGE

Best buds: Lynfield mum Nicky Pin with 9-month-old Leila.

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