For Austin and his family, adjusting to have a dog in the house and caring for Dickson, a Buddy Dog, has been an educational experience.
"Dickson is helping Austin get over his apprehension about dogs and helping him build a bond," says Julianna, Austin's mother. "It's a learning curve, but it's definitely worth it."
A Buddy Dog gives a child with sight loss an opportunity to understand the responsibilities of caring for a dog to make it easier to transition into guide dog partnership in the future.
"It’s certainly a change in our daily routine – we've never had this type of exposure to a well-trained dog," says Ian, Austin's father. "We've had to learn how to effectively interact with Dickson and teach Austin how to care for him."
Austin loves taking Dickson for daily walks, grooming him, and playing fetch with him. Dickson's favourite toy is a blue and green bone.
"The best part about having a Buddy Dog is that Dickson gets to sleep with me in my room. He loves laying on my feet," says Austin. "If you're interested in a Buddy Dog, call CNIB Guide Dogs!"
Ian hopes this Buddy Dog partnership will help Austin develop confidence and become comfortable with dogs.
"It's just a taste of what I think will be a lot to learn to integrate Dickson into our lives, so we can take advantage of everything the program has to offer."