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Its not only for the love of dogs, it’s for the love of the people who need them most.

The Mosborough Busy Busy Lions Club and Pet Valu in Elmira are gearing up for the annual Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides on Sept. 6.

The “Twilight Dog Walk” will be held in Elmira and the chairperson from the Club, Deb Cserhalmi, says that taking part in the walk is like helping put a dog through college.

“All of the funds raised help support programs which helps dogs help people,” Cserhalmi says.

The Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is a national fundraiser held in approximately 300 communities across Canada.

The walk raises funds for the Lions Foundation of Canada Guide Dogs whose mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them a guide dog, at no cost.

“And Pet Valu is the national sponsor,” Cserhalmi said.

Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is the largest fundraising event of its kind.

It raises funds to help provide Dog Guides to Canadians with visual, hearing, medical or physical disabilities.

To date the Walk has raised more than $17 million for Dog Guides and 100% of the funds raised  goes directly toward raising, training and providing Dog Guides to Canadians at no cost.

Photo: PetValu

“The walk began 12 years ago, and I started walking before I joined the group. Previously, the Woolwich Community Lions used to hold it and we decided to pick it up for them,” Cserhalmi said.

The Mosborough Busy Busy Lions Club is a cyber club created in 2017 to help the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.

Members consist primarily of individuals who foster puppies for dog guides but also include graduates and dog guides champions.

The group actively promotes dog guides and participates in a variety of fundraising initiatives including trivia nights, paint nights, BBQs, and toy and T-shirt sales.

“Mosborough’s just outside of Breslau, and that’s where the puppies are born,” Cserhalmi said. “But we have members from all over, from Ottawa to Niagara and Stratford.”

The group made several donations this past year including an anaesthetic machine, the repair and replacement of beds used by dogs in training, puppy bags for foster parents and many wish list items including leashes, clippers and harnesses.

The Mosborough Busy Busy Lions Club continues to act as an ambassador for guide dogs, ‘to help brighten the day of people young and old’.

Members are often asked to provide puppy love for cuddling events such as stressful exam periods or Humane Society day camps.

“Each year, 300 dogs are born and they will go off to 300 foster families,” Cserhalmi said.

“We teach basic obedience and socialization. We don’t know where the dogs are going, so we try and take them everywhere, from city to country.”

Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides is a national charity.

Its mission is to assist Canadians with physical or medical disabilities by providing them specially trained Dog Guides at no cost.

Founded in 1983 by Lions clubs from across Canada, its first program, Canine Vision, trained and matched dog guides with Canadians who were blind or visually impaired.

Today, the foundation provides seven programs.

To date, Lions Foundation of Canada has matched Dog Guides with more than 2,800 Canadians from every province and territory. A Dog Guide costs approximately $25,000 to raise and train, but none of the cost is passed on to qualifying applicants.

The foundation operates two facilities in Ontario: its head office and training centre in Oakville, and a breeding and training facility in Breslau.

Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides does not receive government funding and relies on support from service clubs, corporations, foundations and individuals from across the country.

Dog Guides Canada trains seven different types of Dog Guides: canine vision dog guides for people who are blind or visually impaired, hearing dog guides for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, service dog guides for people who have a physical disability, seizure response dog guides for people who have epilepsy, autism assistance dog guides for children who have autism spectrum disorder, and diabetic alert dog guides for people who have type 1 diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness and support guide dogs used by professional agencies with individuals in traumatic situations.

“It’s such a wonderful program, especially for those with autism. With no government funding, it’s all up to the volunteers and the organization,” Cserhalmi says.

Each program trains dog guides to meet different needs of individuals with various disabilities.

Breeds commonly used are Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles (for people who are allergic to dogs), Golden Retrievers and some smaller breeds.

Photo: PetValu

The training for a dog guide is an intensive four to six-month period, one-on-one with a qualified trainer. Once fully trained, the dog is matched with a client who spends one to four weeks at the Oakville training facility, learning how to handle, trust and bond with their new dog guide.

After graduation, follow-up visits and communication between the graduate and the training staff is maintained to ensure on-going success.

A working Dog Guide is permitted in all public places, and the dogs are been trained to travel on all forms of public transportation.

Puppies are bred at the Lions Foundation’s facility in Breslau.

At approximately eight weeks of age, puppies are placed in foster homes until they return for formal training, which is usually at about one year of age. Foster families housetrain the puppies and teach them manners, basic obedience, and socialize them.

Foster families attend puppy classes in Oakville and Breslau every four to six weeks throughout the one-year commitment.

Veterinary care is provided at the Lions Foundation’s in-house clinic and food is donated by Pet Valu. The Lions Foundation provides veterinary care.  The puppies are screened for both physical soundness as well as temperament before entering the training program.

“I just recently had a friend pick up a puppy,” Cserhalmi said.

“It’s the best volunteer gig going.”

The Pet Valu Dog Walk will take place on Sept. 6 from 6 – 9 pm starting at the Pet Valu in Elmira.

Registration opens at 6 pm.  Anyone from all ages, fitness levels and with or without a dog are welcome to participate

Those interested can register and begin collecting donations early at: https://www.walkfordogguides.com/

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