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Celebrating our Guide Dog graduates, retiring Guide Dogs and our newest training group

20 March 2024

Guide Dogs SA/NT will celebrate the success of its graduating puppies as they become Guide Dogs, congratulate its retiring Guide and Assistance dogs, commemorate those that have passed away, and welcome a new training group of puppies and at the 2024 Guide Dogs Graduation this evening at the National Wine Centre.

The event will celebrate the graduation of six new Guide Dogs, including Tanner, as they begin their working lives and making a difference to people in our community.

Tanner has been paired with Emily Hopkins, a university student who has been supported by Guide Dogs SA/NT for several years. The pair have developed a incredibly close bond in recent months.

Emily lost her vision at just 12 years old. Being young and having endured significant trauma, Emily found motivation hard to muster. Guide Dogs SA/NT provided services for Emily, includng white cane training, until she was old enough to apply for a Guide Dog and find a new level of independence.

“The thought of one day receiving my paw-fect guide got me through some of the darkest times of my life and encouraged me to further my independence through using my long cane,” Emily said.

“There are not enough words to articulate how Tanner has changed my life. Tanner is all I have ever wanted and so much more. Not only does he help me navigate, but he makes me feel safe when I am traveling somewhere alone as a woman with a disability. He is simultaneously my best friend, my baby, and the love of my life. I can’t imagine my life without him.”

Guide Dogs SA/NT Chief Executive Officer Aaron Chia said this graduation, the majority of Guide Dogs have been matched to people younger than 30.

“Matching a Guide Dog to a person living with low vision or blindness is an exacting process. They need to form an incredibly close bond, which relies on trust, so that the handler can rely entirely on their Guide Dog to support them when needed,” Mr Chia said.

“It’s a beautiful relationship and you can see the adoration in our Guide Dogs’ eyes when they’re working with their handler. It’s a beautiful thing, and we appreciate being involved and watching these bonds evolve.

“This year, many of our pairings have been with people aged under 30. Many are studying, socialising, playing sport and really getting out into the community, and having a Guide Dog alongside them gives them a greater sense of independence and a wonderful sense of confidence.”

“Many of them now feel unstoppable and they’re breaking misconceptions, showing what they CAN do, rather than what they can’t.”

The event will also celebrate the retirement of three Guide Dogs as they move on to a life of leisure, and commemorate the lives of three Guide Dogs and three Assistance Dogs that have passed away.

Over the 2022-23 financial year, Guide Dogs SA/NT worked with 112 dogs, including puppies and dogs in training, and those placed as working Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs, or as Facility Dogs that work in schools, the airport, and support vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime in the court system.

The 2024 Guide Dogs Graduation will celebrate the “STU” litter’s journey, and acknowledge other successes and matches in the Guide Dog program. The event will also welcome Guide Dogs’ newest puppies-in-training, along with recognising those that have retired and those that have passed away.

Over the next 12 months, Guide Dogs SA/NT is also aiming to establish its first regional puppy training program, based on Yorke Peninsula.

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