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Guide dogs honoured for transforming the lives of disabled

10 August 2018 - 14:26 By Suthentira Govender
International Assistance Dog Week recognises the life-changing services performed by guide dogs.
International Assistance Dog Week recognises the life-changing services performed by guide dogs.
Image: 123rf.com/Antonio Gravante

South Africa’s guide dogs are having their day in the sun‚ as the world pays tribute to the hard-working canines during International Assistance Dog Week.

The week‚ which runs until August 11‚ was created to recognise the life-changing services performed by guide dogs and to honour the volunteers who raise the puppies earmarked for the job.

“International Assistance Dog Week was created to recognise all the devoted‚ hard-working assistance dogs helping individuals mitigate their disability-related limitations‚” said Pieter van Niekerk‚ spokesman for SA Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind.

“In addition to honouring assistance dogs during their special week‚ one of the goals is to raise awareness about these very special and highly trained animals.

“Assistance dogs transform the lives of their human partners with debilitating physical and mental disabilities by serving as their devoted companion‚ helper‚ aide‚ best friend and close member of their family.

“The association is also training dogs to assist people with disabilities other than visual impairment. Service dogs and autism support dogs are trained and able to perform a variety of basic tasks designed to bring independence and companionship to their owners.

“The service dog becomes the physical extension of their recipients by retrieving dropped items‚ turning on light switches and much‚ much more‚ while the autism support dog plays a physical role in preventing an autistic child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder from wandering away when distracted‚” explained van Niekerk.

Assistance dog breeding lines are carefully selected to produce the best possible dogs.

Each puppy’s first year is spent in the family home of a volunteer puppy raiser‚ where the pup is thoroughly socialised before it returns to the association at the age of 12 to 14 months for formal training.