Fergus Lions Club and Purina Walk for Dogs

Residents here are making a difference.

Last weekend, area residents helped in the lives of Canadians with disabilities by participating in the Purina Walk for Dog Guides.

Fergus is just one of the many locations that held a walk on May 31. The walk was at the Forfar ball park. There is no registration fee and people of all fitness levels, ages, and abilities are invited to participate.

The walk is the Lions Foun­dation of Canada’s largest fundraising event which helps it to match deserving Cana­dians with dog guides.

Claude Lacroix, organizer of the Fergus walk, said “With the support of people in and around our community we can all help Canadians with disabilities achieve or maintain a safe and independent life­style.”

National sponsors this year include: Nestlé Purina PetCare, Air Canada Kids’ Horizons, OMNI, Via Rail Canada, Urban Advertising and Design, Paul Boddum, Jim Craigmyle and Dogs in Canada. One hundred per cent of the proceeds go directly toward Lions Foun­da­tion of Canada and its dog guide programs.

Resident Lauren Ostic has takes that approach a step further. It’s something that she’s taken to heart, helping to socialize the aptly-named Heart for a life as a guide dog.

While it might seem a huge commitment, Ostic said she has a huge love of dogs and this is something she had wanted to do for a long time.

She’s currently taking classes at the University of Guelph, and where she is, Heart is sure to follow. Ostic explained the socialization process requires Heart to become familiar with a wide variety of situations, something a university with lots of people can offer.

The socialization is a 12-month process of becoming familiar with as many experiences as possible that Heart might experience as guide dog.

Ostic said it could be virtually anything, from going to grocery stores, movie theatres, busses, elevator and even res­taurants.

“The first few weeks were a bit of a challenge, Ostic said.

Heart was only eight weeks old when she wore her first guide dog jacket.

As for the walk itself, David Whitehead said the event is much like last year with roughly a five kilometre route.

The Fergus walk began several years ago to collect funds for the Lions Foundation of Canada, he said.

He noted the guide dog centre in Oakville is planning an expansion of its operations including expanded kennels to allow for training more dogs.

While the centre currently trains upwards of 100 dogs per year, Whitehead said, “That is nowhere near catching up with the real need.”