RSB celebrates its newest recruits at its 2022 Guide Dog Graduation Ceremony
The latest partnerships between the Royal Society for the Blind’s blind and vision-impaired clients and its newest Guide Dog recruits will be celebrated at a Graduation Ceremony this Thursday, 2 June.
The 2022 graduating class features a strong female cohort, with seven of the eight graduating Royal Society for the Blind (RSB) Guide Dogs paired with female clients, including singer/songwriter and former ‘The Voice Australia’ contestant Rachael Leahcar.
Damian Papps, Executive Director of RSB, said the dogs will have a transformative impact on the lives of their new owners.
“These dogs are life-changing for clients of all ages,” he said.
“As well as helping people with vision impairment get out and about independently and safely in the community, RSB guide dogs promote social inclusion, improve mental and physical health, and provide security, companionship, and the confidence to try new skills and experiences.
“Of course, this would not be possible without the incredibly generous and vital support of our staff, volunteers, and donors, which we’re incredibly grateful for.”
The dogs in this year’s graduating class — Chief, Ernie, Jarvis, Edward, Ilsa, Bonnie, Maxie, and Kia — were all bred by RSB, and spent the first year of their lives being raised in volunteers’ homes.
Following an assessment process, the dogs embarked on RSB’s intensive guide dog training program, before being matched to a compatible RSB client.
“The dogs have all got their characters, just like people,” Lindy Hennekam, Manager of RSB’s Guide and Assistance Dog service said.
“When we’re matching a dog to a client, we consider things like the clients’ walking speed, the size and temperament of the dog, and the environment that the person lives and works in.”
Once matched, an RSB Guide Dog instructor works with the pair — in their home, workplace, and social environments — to get the duo working seamlessly together.
“It’s not easy, there’s a fair bit to learn,” Lindy said.
“There’s hand signals as well as voice signals. The dog needs to adapt to their new owner who walks and talks differently to their trainer, and the owner needs to learn how to communicate with the dog through its handle.
“For the owner, it’s a bit like learning to drive a new car, but they quickly form a fantastic bond and respect for each other.”
For more than 15 years, RSB has proudly provided guide and assistance dogs to South Australians. For more information about RSB’s Guide and Assistance Dogs, visit the website.