In 2023 more than 20 people will be partnered with a See Differently guide or assistance dog. Dozens more puppies and young dogs are also in training, from newborn puppies to those undertaking their final formal training.
The See Differently Guide and Assistance dog program has gone from strength to strength because of the large community of hardworking and caring volunteers who take care of these guide and assistance dogs of the future.
On Wednesday 17th May, these volunteers will be acknowledged at the See Differently Gilles Plains campus where volunteers who have reached service milestones of 5, 10, 15 years will be awarded. Over 30 volunteers, including Denise Waterman, who has volunteered with See Differently for 15 years will be awarded.
Denise began volunteering with See Differently when she and her late husband stumbled upon a guide dog demonstration in Melbourne in 2008. Eager to help train dogs to help those in need, she started puppy educating in 2009. Over the next two years, Denise dedicated herself to training and caring for 4 puppies.
“A comment made by the wife of a guide dog client that will live with me for the rest of my life was, ‘thank you for giving my life back.’ I hadn’t realised that what I was doing would impact other members of the client’s family as well,” Denise said.
More recently Denise shifted her focus to emergency boarding, taking care of dogs in the program when their main caregiver is unable to. In this role Denise has looked after more than 14 dogs. In 2022, Denise took on her most significant responsibility becoming a breeder for a litter of puppies from her residence in the Angle Vale Retirement Village.
“It was the most amazing experience in my life. I had eight puppies that needed care, and I was lucky that a few ladies from my retirement village could provide me additional support besides the support that See Differently gave me,” Denise said.
Denise’s efforts as a volunteer have additionally resulted in an increase in awareness and support from the Angle Vale Retirement Village, which makes regular donations to See Differently’s guide and assistance dog program.
“They were so moved by the program that they started donating yearly,” Denise said.
“Volunteering for See Differently has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only have I been able to help train amazing guide and assistance dogs, but I’ve also been able to raise awareness about the important work that See Differently does,” Denise said.
More than just four-legged friends, See Differently Guide and Assistance Dogs are highly trained workers, changing the lives of South Australians with blindness or a vision impairment, veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as children with Autism through the Animal Assistance Therapy Program.
Of the contribution made by See Differently volunteers, See Differently Executive Director Damian Papps commented.
“It is because of this extraordinary group of volunteers that we are able to get these highly trained dogs out in service, where they are supporting our clients to live the lives they want, with greater independence and flexibility”.
“National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate these incredible people. Our dogs in training, raised by volunteers are of the highest standard, largely because of the start they receive, in a home environment, with ongoing exposure to a variety of settings including shops, workplaces, and public transport. See Differently dogs are well adjusted, comfortable in different environments, and their skills in the top echelon in the world”. Mr Papps said.
See Differently is always on the lookout for new volunteers. By becoming a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to make a significant impact on South Australian’s who are blind, vision impaired or suffer from PTSD. To qualify, you need to be over 18 years of age, have a driver’s licence, and have a suitable home for the dog to sleep inside and access to an outdoor area.