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Walk will raise money to train future lifesavers

Orillia's Walk for Dog Guides taking place Sept. 30
2018-09-06 Laura Joyce service dog
Laura Joyce, who is blind, is shown with her service dog, Norma Jean. Joyce is organizing Orillia's Walk for Dog Guides, happening Sept. 30. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters

When Laura Joyce lost her vision as a teenager, she felt hopeless and helpless.

The brain tumour was benign, “but it did its damage.”

“The world was at my feet and the possibilities were endless,” she said. “Then I went from having complete vision to no vision in a matter of months.”

If it weren’t for Norma Jean and the three service dogs before her, Joyce’s life would be much more difficult. Norma Jean, Joyce’s four-year-old black Lab, has been a lifesaver.

“There are times when I don’t know there’s danger up ahead and she will do an exaggerated walk around (the area),” Joyce explained. “She will refuse a command if she sees that it will put me in danger.”

Knowing first-hand the value of service dogs is the reason Joyce has been organizing the annual Walk for Dog Guides in Orillia for nine of the 10 years it’s been happening.

“I can’t imagine my life without a service dog, and I want to help other people,” she said.

Money raised during the walk, which is sponsored nationally by Pet Valu, goes to the Lions Foundation of Canada’s dog guides program. The foundation does not receive government funding, and it costs about $25,000 to train the dogs. Still, the canines are provided at no cost to those in need.

The foundation trains dogs to help those with vision and hearing impairments, autism, diabetes and more. The hope is to start training some to assist those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The foundation relies on the annual walk to help cover those costs, and Orillia is doing its part.

The city’s 10th annual fundraiser will take place Sept. 30 at Couchiching Beach Park. Registration will be at 10 a.m. at Pavilion 1, with the walk starting at 11 a.m. Registration is free. The event is open to people of all ages and fitness levels, with or without a dog, and will happen rain or shine.

Joyce knows not everyone has a personal connection to someone who requires the use of a service dog, but she feels that shouldn’t stop them from supporting the cause.

“You never know. There might be a time when members of your family or social circle will need a service dog,” she said.

Click here to find out more about the Sept. 30 Walk for Dog Guides.