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Alberta Guide Dogs (a division of BC Guide Dog Services)

Dogs with important jobs!! Life-changing Guide and Autism Support Dogs (for children with moderate to profound autism) are provided. Cost = ~$35,000. Fee to recipient = $1. Value to recipient = priceless!

Our Impact

What We Do

Imagine being able to transform someone’s life with the gift of independence. That is what a professionally trained Guide Dog or Autism Support Dog can do for someone who is blind or visually impaired, or a child with moderate to severe autism.

Take a moment and visualize the benefits these service dogs give their recipients on a day-to-day basis; increased safety, enhanced mobility, facilitated safe navigation and freedom and confidence to explore for blind/visually-impaired individuals.

For a child with autism, increased safety, positive changes in behaviour, improved social skills, more predictability in social situations, increased security and support for the child, improved sleeping habits and much more are possible. The entire family benefits. Having an Autism Support Dog means being able to do simple things the rest of us take for granted, like going to the supermarket, the mall or the park as a family. In essence, it means being able to experience childhood, instead of missing out.

Alberta Guide Dog Services is a division of British Columbia Guide Dog Services (a registered charity). Our mission is to meet the growing demand for professionally trained Guide Dogs and Autism Support Dogs for citizens of Alberta. Each puppy born through our in-house breeding program has the potential to grow up to change someone’s life.

Although often viewed as a dog organization, BC & Alberta Guide Dogs is actually an organization about people. When evaluating applicants’ suitability for Guide Dog or Autism Support Dog training, we see ability rather than disability. All  training programs are tailored to the needs of each individual, which includes domiciliary (at-home) training in the client’s familiar environment. While our services are provided at no cost to recipients, it takes two years and up to $35,000 to breed, raise and train one of these furry heroes-in-the-making. We are not government funded and rely on the generosity of donors, as well as special events and fundraisers, for funding.

Sawyer, Ryker & Autism Support Dog Roman:

Roman joined our family summer 2016 and our lives have been forever changed. Our story, like many, includes sadness, fear, helplessness and uncertainty but is filled with joy, happiness, love, and hope. We are a mommy, daddy and two beautiful boys, Sawyer and Ryker. Our boys are very different but share their love of video games, toys, music, being active, animals and nature, they also both have ASD.

At young ages we learned neither Sawyer or Ryker understood the concept of personal safety and had the tendency to “bolt”. Bolting or running off happens in an instant with no predictability and can be triggered by anything and for reasons we don’t always understand. Struggles with social situations, anxiety, and sensory challenges also impact our day to day lives. The boys need 1:1 support outside of our home, if 2 adults aren’t available we can’t go out which can be very isolating at times.

The first time we met Roman, Ryker got upset about something, ran to his room, and without a word Roman followed, put his head down, Ryker wrapped his arms around Roman’s neck for a hug and you could feel Ryker exhale. The following week when Laura called to tell us Roman would join our family, well…it’s impossible to describe how that made us feel.

Roman works with both of our boys which is a BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Autism Support Dog division first, a special dog and 2 very special trainers. Laura and Nic, they didn’t just train us how to work with Roman, they did so much more, more than they probably realize, these two simply amazing women had an impact of our whole family in a very positive way.

Graduation for us was 3 weeks, 3 days ago. What has changed? Everything.

I could explain in detail how Roman makes us feel, that all of us have less anxiety, that with Roman I can take the boys out on my own so we aren’t isolated anymore, how we’ve gone places we could never go before and done things we didn’t think we could do, but instead I’ll share words from our family over the past weeks…

“I don’t feel sad and angry anymore, how does Roman make it so I’m not sad and angry?”, “Can I go swimming at the dog park today?”, “Roman made it so I could button up a shirt! I never did that before! Can you believe it!”, “Can I feed Roman his breakfast?”, “He’s so cute”,”How do I hold the bag? And pick it up? It smells, dog poo is gross, adults should do this only”, “We never went for walks here before!”, “Roman, you’re my bestest friend ever”, “We need to clean our toys up so Roman doesn’t eat them”, “What adventure are we going on today?”, “Are Laura and Nic going to come to my birthday party?”, “I’m glad Roman keeps me safe because you know what? I don’t know why I run away I can’t help it”, “I love him so much”, “Can we go to Disneyland tomorrow because we have Roman now?”. “I feel like I can breathe for the first time in years”, “I never knew he could change things this much and I could love a dog this much”, “How is thank you to everybody involved in bringing Roman into our lives ever enough?”.

“This is Roman, he’s our Autism Support Dog, me and my brother have autism and he helps make us safe”. “You know what Roman does? He makes my heart happy”.

BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, Autism Support Dog Team #37 – Roman, Sawyer, Ryker, Mommy and Daddy, our family of 5 with thanks and gratitude to all involved in the process of bringing Roman into our lives.

Our Programs

How We Do It

For over 20 years, we have been expertly breeding and training guide dogs for blind and visually impaired individuals, and, more recently, support dogs for children with moderate to severe autism.

It takes an average of two years to train a guide dog or autism support dog and requires an entire team of veterinarians, staff, trainers, and volunteers. We understand the profound impact our dogs have, and we take every effort necessary to partner the right dog with the right client.

The overall process to raise and train a service dog includes:

  • Breeding: We manage our own breeding program, giving careful consideration to litter frequency, health of the bitch and sire, genetics and more.
  • Puppy Training: Once the puppies are weaned, they are placed with volunteer puppy raisers for the first 14-16 months of their life. During this time, they learn basic obedience and are socialized to every environment possible. We support the volunteers with our staff member (Puppy Training Supervisor) who holds on-going obedience classes and one-on-one visits and evaluations with them.
  • Advanced Training: At 14-16 months of age, the puppies commence “advanced training” with a Certified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor for a further 4 – 6 months. Here they are taught more specific skills and are assessed as to suitability for placement with a recipient.
  • Placement: Upon completing advanced training, the dogs are placed with a recipient. Our professional training staff faciliate full-time, one-on-one in-home training with clients for two to four weeks. Despite the higher cost of training people at their homes (travel and accommodation costs for our instructors), we are committed to this model as it reduces stress for the recipients and increases success of the team.
  • After-care: Post-match follow-up visits at 3 months, then annually. We are also available as needed for questions, addressing any areas of concern or for further training.

To date, we have graduated 121 Guide Dogs and 41 Autism Support Dogs.

Demand for both Guide Dogs and Autism Support Dogs continues to rapidly and recipients are faced with a two-year+ wait list.

Currently, there are 1,200 Guide Dogs working in Canada, which equates to less than 1% of blind or visually impaired people currently having a working Guide Dog. Vision loss in Canada is expected to increase by nearly 30% in the next decade.

The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network estimates about 1 in 68 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is almost five times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189).

Our Requests

What You Can Do

How can you help? Support our efforts to produce Guide Dogs or Autism Support Dogs financially or with your time and make a difference in someone’s life for years to come. These loyal, reliable canine partners work for up to eight years making a difference day in a day out to someone in need.

It costs up to $35,000 to breed, raise, train, place and provide life-long aftercare support for each Guide or Autism Support Dog that graduates. To supply more people with professionally trained Guide and Autism Support Dogs we need to increase the number of dogs in our program. In order to do this we need more funding.

Ways to support:

1) One-time or Monthly Donations: make a tax-deductible contribution any time of year.

2) Puppy Sponsorship: follow the progress of a puppy from birth to graduation with regular photos and letters.

  • Mom & Pups Fund ($1,000 gift). Support the care of a mom and her litter.  You will receive a birth announcement photo of mom with her pups. Then, we will match you with a puppy from that litter who, from 8 weeks of age until approximately 2 years of age, will send regular photos and letters to you.
  • Puppy Naming ($5,000 gift). Choose a name for one of our puppies.  You will receive a photo of your named pup.  We will then match you with a puppy from that same litter who, from 8 weeks of age until approximately 2 years of age, will send regular photos and letters to you.
  • Adopt a Team ($10,000 gift). Support a graduating team as the puppy-in-training finishes their advanced training and are teamed with their lifelong recipient. You will receive a photo of the graduated team and recognition as a team sponsor! We’ll also pair you up with a new puppy just joining our training program who you are welcome to name.
  • Adopt a Puppy ($35,000). Support a puppy along its entire journey to potentially become a life-changing service dog. It costs up to $35,000 to breed, raise, train, place and provide life-long aftercare for each dog we graduate. You will choose a name for one of the puppies and he or she will, from 8 weeks of age until approximately 2 years of age, send regular photos and letters to you!

3) Bequests or Endowments: set up a gift in your will or establish an endowment in memory of a loved one.

4) Life Insurance Policies: name our charity as a beneficiary; your premiums will qualify as tax-deductible contributions.

5) Fundraising: organize a fundraising event or ask friends and family to donate on special occasions.

6) Volunteer:

  • Be a Puppy Trainer. Puppies begin living with volunteers at about 8 weeks old and stay until they are 14 – 16 months of age when they start their advanced training. During this time Puppy Trainers expend time, energy and love to the puppies in order to raise puppies that are well prepared for their professional training as a service dog. Our Puppy Raising Supervisor supports Puppy Trainers and the cost of dog food, veterinary care and other basic necessities are covered. Monthly training evaluations and regular obedience classes are required as is availability during the weekdays for these sessions.

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Contact

Trish Lund

Alberta Guide Dogs (a division of BC Guide Dog Services)

403.258.0819

Charitable Number: 891311763RR0001

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