On Tuesday, May 21 at 2 p.m., the Tillsonburg Lions are presenting an afternoon with four Lions Club guide dogs, who coming with their handlers from Oakville to The Tillsonburg Town Centre mall for a meet and greet.
The dogs will meet people as they stroll along Broadway and will be visiting special supporters along the way. The dogs will be also featured at Sobeys, Metro, and Zehrs from 4:30-5:30 p.m. where volunteers will outline the guide dog program.
“These are very special dogs so make plans to meet them,” said Susan Saelens, Tillsonburg Lions Club.
Guide dogs can be trained in six areas, said Bill Chanyi, Tillsonburg Lions Club, including Vision Guide Dogs, Hearing Guide Dogs, Autistic Assistance, Service (for people with disabilities), Seizure Guide Dogs and Diabetes Guide Dogs.
“It seems like the Lions are going into a lot more health issues,” said Saelens, “rather than just vision. The hearing, the autistic, service… there was one dog that got that person upstairs, got them into bed, got them what they needed for the night, then laid down beside the bed.”
“That was really amazing,” said Chanyi. “That was the first time I went to Oakville to see the program.”
To help support Canine Vision Canada, a guide dog program founded by The Lions Foundation of Canada, the local Tillsonburg Lions Club is raising money for the guide dogs by collecting pennies and loose change.
“You could call it Round Up of Pennies, or Pennies for Puppies, Dollars for Dogs,” Chanyi smiled.
“I think we’re so fortunate – we know there are still pennies out there, all we have to do is have people part with them. It’s an opportunity for us – we can buy dogs with them.”
The pennies, which were taken out of circulation in 2013, have been coming in from people’s home collections, said Saelens, but they are also encouraging any loose change.
“Like the firefighters have the boot drive, it might help us get to the $6,000 goal faster,” said Saelens.
Jars have been left at local businesses including the pet stores, and Corey’s Restaurant and The Corner Griddle.
“The two restaurants have had jars for the last five years,” said Chanyi. “The pet stores just recently.”
Each jar has a photo of a guide dog on it.
“Each dog costs $25,000 to train,” said Saelens, noting the Tillsonburg Lions typically donate in the $6,000-$10,000 range, sharing in the cost to train one dog. “(Canine Vision Canada) looks for corporations, they look for individuals, estates to leave money, towards these dogs.”
The donations start at $6,000 and go up to $12,000, Chanyi noted.
“Out of the funds we have raised (in 2018), I know that $8,000 went towards Canine Vision for guide dogs. We had one gentleman that died, Gord, had put some money in his will towards a dog and we matched it. We bought an autistic dog that went out to Saskatchewan.”
The Tillsonburg Lions do not have an exact number of guide dogs they have helped train since the early 80s, but Saelens figured it was more than a dozen.
“While Bob was governor, there was four dogs,” said Chanyi.
“Four dogs in five years, I think,” Saelens nodded.
The Tillsonburg Lions plan to make a presentation Canine Vision Canada on May 21, but the Pennies for Puppies or Dollars for Dogs fundraising loose change project will continue in Tillsonburg.
“The jars will still be at the stores,” Chanyi nodded.