MOUNT FOREST – Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mount Forest Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides is being held virtually this year.
Throughout the month of May, the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides (LFCDG), an organization based in Oakville, is hosting the event, which relies on Canadians to join and donate to create awareness and fundraise for the organization.
Typically, the event is held in-person in approximately 300 communities across Canada.
This year, people are able to create an account on the foundation’s website and register as a “walker” and set up a fundraising goal or kilometre goal. Here, they can log the kilometres they walk, run, bike or wheel.
The Mount Forest walk organizer is Mary Ruth Job. She has spent 15 years with the LFCDG.
“What we’re really missing is the one-on-one contact people get with their pets, so we’re sorry to miss that this year,” Job said.
The LFCDG is a national charity that provides dog guides at no cost. Since 1983, it has provided over 3,000 dog guides across Canada.
The LFCDG breeds future dog guides and places them with volunteer families for 12 to 18 months.
The dogs then go on to “Dog Guide University” to “major” in one of the seven programs the foundation offers for dog guides: blind (guide dogs), hearing, special needs for wheelchairs, autism assistance, diabetic alert, seizure response, and the newest one, a facility support dog for emotional support.
“Most dogs are in service eight to 10 years, then they retire,” Job said.
The foundation needs support from the public in order to provide dog guides to people, as it does not receive any government funding. Each dog guide “team” costs approximately $3,500.
The virtual event has no registration fee. Those interested in joining or donating can visit www.walkfordogguides.com.
“People can either donate to an individual’s account or to the Mount Forest location,” Job said.
“When they go on the (LFCDG) site to donate, they can search for ‘location’ and click on ‘Mount Forest.’ You can also register as being a walker and set up a fundraising goal or kilometre goal.”
Although it’s taking place throughout the month, the official national virtual walk date is May 30.
“Other towns may choose another day, but the official date is May 30. However, you can donate at any point throughout the year,” said Job.
Nationally, the foundation’s goal is to “walk the length of Canada,” which is 5,514 kilometres.
The foundation’s goal is to raise $1.3 million nationally for Dog Guides.
Job said in Mount Forest, approximately $1,250 has been raised this year so far.
“Our goal each year is usually $5,000. Most years, we achieve this goal, and more. Every little town does their thing, and together they’re very successful,” she said.
Job added the walk’s sponsor, Pet Valu, supplies food for the dogs in Oakville and Breslau (where the dogs are trained), and foster families are also given food for the dogs.
“Volunteers just need to supply their time,” she said.
Job said donations are important right now, as there are people in the area in need of Dog Guides.
“We do have a woman in town who is waiting for a support dog, as well as somebody in Hanover.
“We also have a few families in town looking at fostering puppies.”