Walking puppies is not always love and sloppy kisses. talks to one woman helping train the next generation of guide dogs.
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.
Best buds: Lynfield mum Nicky Pin with 9-month-old Leila.