Cute and furry fundraiser supports dog guide training.
(OAKVILLE, Ont.) – Nothing pairs perfectly with pasta like a bunch of roly-poly puppies.
The Pasta & Puppies fundraiser held by the Lions Foundation of Canada raises money to assist clients with unforeseen medical bills their service dogs may have in the future.
Jennifer Close, a foundation employee, met visitors at the door.
“You are welcome to sit and visit with our puppies here,” said Close gesturing to an enclosure set up by the front door.
Four yellow and black Labrador pups wrestled with an adult standard poodle in an enclosure. A golden retriever ran in circles in a ball pit. using their well-chewed ropes, guests sat on the floor and played tug-of-war with the puppies.
From 12 to 3:30 p.m., guests came to enjoy a pasta buffet, meet a playful bundle of pups and donate to the cause. From 4 to 6 p.m., diners ate blindfolded. The experience of being sightless was designed to deepen the appreciation for the vital role a service dog can play for visually-impaired clients.
Raffle tickets were sold for a 50/50 draw and prizes.
Bred at the whelping facility in Breslau, Ont., puppies move to the Oakville training centre at eight weeks old. They are fostered out to local volunteers for 12-18 months for training in basic obedience commands and socialization skills. Eventually they are recalled to Oakville to begin their specialized dog guide training. Once paired with an eligible recipient, they and their new owner live and train together at the Oakville facility for two to four weeks.
Lara Kesselring is an apprentice instructor for the diabetic alert program. Twelve of the puppies currently in foster care will eventually train with her program.
“They stay with our fosters for around a year to a year and a half depending on when they get recalled,” said Kesselring.
“They go to puppy classes that are hosted by the dog guide puppy staff so they can prepare the puppy for what it’s going to be doing in the future in terms of basic obedience and setting them up for success for the programs.”
The fundraiser is held the weekend before Valentine’s Day and helps to highlight the Lions’ Adopt a Puppy program. A financial adoption only, a $100 donation gets the donor’s valentine a personalized certificate. The funds are used for a puppy’s vet expenses during its first year.
Established in 1985, the Lions Clubs initially trained dogs to assist Canadians with visual impairment. The program has grown to include training for hearing, service, seizure response, autism assistance, diabetic alert and support dog guides.
Successful applicants are provided a dog at no cost. All breeding, care, support and training is covered through donations. They do not receive any government funding.
One guide dog costs $25,000 to train and place.