“After losing my sight from cancer when I was seven years old, I began learning braille from Leona Emberson, an independent living skills specialist with Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada, in June 2020. She told me about her guide dog and CNIB’s Buddy Dog program. I want my own guide dog when I’m old enough, so my family and I agreed that getting a buddy dog now would teach me what I need to know before I’m old enough to get a guide dog. In March 2021, I was matched with Hope, a two-year-old black Labrador retriever. She is an excited, playful and energetic girl who loves getting her belly rubbed. Before Hope arrived, we were told dogs normally want to check out a new home before they want to meet people, but Hope was different. When she got here, we were sitting calmly in the living room and she came over to me right away and licked me! I was so excited because it felt like she knew she was mine. My family has had a pet cat and fish before, but Hope is our first dog. I love dogs and they usually like me, but I needed some help becoming confident getting around and walking more. With some help from my mom and dad, we walk Hope on a leash along the busy sidewalks by our house and she leads us home safely every time. She's phenomenal at helping me feel better when I’m sad, and sleeps with me at night to make me less scared of the darkness. Hope is smart, runs fast and loves every toy we give her. She loves playing football with me and going for walks at the Central Experimental Farm near our house in Ottawa. Everyone I meet thinks it’s cool that I have Hope. They all love her and are so excited when they meet her. I love you, Hope. My life is better with you in it.”
-Ollie Acosta-Pickering, age 9
A buddy dog is partnered with a child who is living with sight loss. Whether it’s feeding, grooming or walking this well-trained family pet, this will give the child an opportunity to care for a dog, and make it easier to transition into a guide dog partnership in some cases. If you think your child could benefit from being partnered with a CNIB Buddy Dog, please contact Miriam Mas, Program Lead, Buddy Dogs & Ambassador Dogs.