Guide dogs need a helping paw

Press Release – Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind

Calling bakers and donors for 2012 Red Puppy Appeal “It’s like looking through a very small straw,” is how mother-of-two Gael Jordan describes her view of the world.28 February 2012
News Release
Guide dogs like Candy need a helping paw from generous Kiwis

Calling bakers and donors for 2012 Red Puppy Appeal

“It’s like looking through a very small straw,” is how mother-of-two Gael Jordan describes her view of the world.

She has a genetic condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which means she is progressively losing her peripheral vision and will eventually go completely blind.

Her condition worsened not long after her son Niko, now 8, was born. She had to give up work as a florist, abandon driving altogether and couldn’t walk him to school.

That all changed a year ago when she got her first Royal Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) guide dog, a gorgeous black Labrador called Candy.

“Having Candy means I am not so dependent and can do a bit more for myself and my family,” says Gael.

“A bit more” is an understatement. With Candy’s help, Gael now catches buses all over Auckland, walks Niko to Westmere School (where Candy had a first birthday party) and spent four weeks camping and hiking on Great Barrier Island over the summer.

Now Gael, who admits she suffered depression before she got her RNZFB guide dog, plans to write a book about Candy’s adventures.

With blind and partially sighted New Zealanders like Gael waiting six to 12 months for a guide dog, which take two years to train, this year’s Red Puppy Appeal is needed more than ever. Thousands of keen cooks and volunteers are being urged to give a helping paw to the appeal, which runs from Friday 30 March to Sunday 1 April.

“Our guide dogs have to pass 55 different tests and walk many thousands of steps before they graduate,” says RNZFB Chief Executive, Sandra Budd.

“The average time spent waiting for a dog is up to a year but it can take longer if people have particular needs. As Gael knows, guide dogs can mean freedom, independence and confidence. There are people waiting today to receive one, so it is really important we maintain our guide dog breeding and training programme.”

Keen supporters of the Red Puppy Appeal include the Prime Minister’s wife Bronagh Key and newlyweds Kate Hawkesby and Mike Hosking.

If you want to help too, there are ways you can support the appeal this year by organising your own fundraising for the foundation.

Red Puppy Bikkie Day is on Friday, 30 March, with keen cooks encouraged to “bake a difference” for RNZFB guide dog puppies by selling puppy-shaped bikkies to friends, work colleagues or classmates. Simply visit redpuppy.org.nz to sign up as a baker, find out more information or make a donation.

Ends
Notes to Editors about RNZFB and Guide Dog Services:

• The RNZFB is New Zealand’s main provider of sight loss services to blind and partially sighted people.
• It has more than 11,500 blind and partially sighted members nationwide.
• Every day an average of three blind or partially sighted New Zealanders sign up as members of the RNZFB.

• RNZFB puppies are identified by their bright red coats and the average working life of a RNZFB guide dog is eight to 10 years.
• The RNZFB equips its members with the adaptive skills, technology and resources they need to overcome the barriers they face to participating fully in society and leading independent lives.

• The RNZFB receives no government funding for Guide Dog Services so your support of the Red Puppy Appeal will help blind and partially sighted Kiwis live a full and independent life.

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