Woolwich Lions dog walk taking it to the streets for club’s 13th event

Looking to raise the profile of their annual Walk for Dog Guides, the Woolwich Community Lions have changed the route to include stretches in downtown Elmira, passing by the likes of Gore Park, says event organizer Nancy Booth.

The Woolwich Community Lions Club will be hosting their 13th annual dog guide walk this year on May 27 starting at PetValu in Elmira at 9 a.m. Walkers of all ages will travel down Arthur Street and loop around back to the starting location, a different route than the path usually taken.

“We’ve changed the route this year,” said Nancy Booth, event organizer for the Woolwich Community Lions Club. “We used to do it on the Kissing Bridge Trail by the Observer, and we’d walk to the Floradale Road and back. A lot of members in our club thought we needed more exposure, so we decided to walk the main street.”

Anyone is invited to participate in the walk, whether they have a dog or not. The group will meet at 315 Arthur St. S. for the five-kilometre trek.

Sandi Thurley is the assistant manager of PetValu.

“PetValu is one of the main sponsors of their Walk for Dog Guides,” said Sandi Thurley, assistant manager of the Elmira location.  “As such, we want to participate with the local Lions Club in the walk.”

Participation in the event is free; however, the group does accept donations. They have raised more than $100,000 to date.

The Lions Foundation of Canada has been around for over 30 years and has matched some 2,700 dogs to recipients in need of a guide animal.

Members raise a variety of dog breeds, the most common being Labradors, standard and miniature doodles and golden retrievers.

“Puppies are fostered in volunteer homes for a year, and then they go on to ‘university’ to gain their training,” said Booth. If they have any health issues, they are put in a separate category and sold to anyone wishing to adopt a housebroken puppy. Healthy dogs are completely trained.

Training is an intensive four- to eight-month period, one-on-one with a qualified instructor. When they are fully trained, they are matched with a handler for two to four weeks at the Oakville training school to learn how to handle, trust, and bond with their new dog guide. Each training session is aimed towards a specific cause.

For example, one category is called canine vision and helps the visually impaired. Dogs are trained to navigate obstacles found on daily routes such as curbs, steps and crowds.

Another category is called autism assistance and provides safety and companionship to children 3-12 years old who are on the autism spectrum. Other categories include service, hearing ear, seizure response and diabetic alert.

It costs approximately $25,000 to raise a dog guide and they are given to qualified applicants at no cost. The foundation receives no government funding and relies purely on the generosity of Canadians to meet its mission.

“Registration starts at 8:30, and the walk begins at 9,” said Thurley of this year’s event. “It’ll be about an hour, and then we’re going to have a barbecue that will wrap up about 12 o’clock. The barbecue will be about 10:30 or 11 and will go until about 12 o clock.”

“We have bottles of water that we’re going to give anyone who would like one,” added Booth.

Anyone interested in registering can visit www.walkfordogguides.com or call 519-669-5084 to find out more information.

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