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10-year-old Kaiden smiling and leaning down to embrace his CNIB Buddy Dog, Flinn, a black Labrador-Retriever cross.

Dollars for Dogs: 10-year-old Kaiden meets his new buddy dog, Flinn

Kaiden, a 10-year-old boy from St. John’s, Newfoundland, hopes to one day have his own guide dog. Born with Craniosynostosis, Kaiden has had partial sight and hearing loss his entire life.

After learning about CNIB Guide Dogs’ buddy dog program, Kaiden’s mom, Lisa, did some research. She spoke with Kelly Picco, a guide dog handler who is partnered with Maple, who told her that she would have loved the opportunity to get a buddy dog at a young age, as it would have made things so much easier for her when she received her first guide dog as an adult.

After speaking with the mother of another buddy dog partnership in St. John's, Lisa knew it was the right decision for her son to get a buddy dog, so they decided to apply.

On September 21, they received the news that Kaiden would be getting a CNIB Buddy Dog, thanks to the hard work of Wheels for Wishes – a group of local auto enthusiasts who fundraised $50,000 through a virtual car show called “Cruising ‘Cause We Care”. All funds raised were donated to CNIB Guide Dogs, in order to provide a buddy dog to a child with sight loss in Newfoundland and Labrador.

On October 16, Kaiden and his mom went to the CNIB office in St. John’s to sign travel forms for them to go to Ontario to pick up his new buddy dog when the COVID-19 travel restrictions eventually lifted – or so he thought.

Before he could go inside the building, Kaiden was met outside by his new CNIB Buddy Dog, Flinn. Kaiden’s jaw dropped when he saw the dog, a two-year-old black Labrador-Retriever cross wearing a bright yellow CNIB Buddy Dog vest.

Kaiden exclaimed, “Flinn! Hey buddy!" And was instantly met with kisses and a tail wag from his new buddy. The pair bonded instantly.

“In such a short time, I not only can see how having a buddy dog will help Kaiden transition to a guide dog in the future, but I already see a difference in Kaiden with responsibility,” says Lisa. “I can’t wait to watch the future unfold for Flinn and Kaiden. This duo is ready to take on the world, one paw print at a time.”

Watch the moment Kaiden and his Buddy Dog Flinn first met: