After working alongside his former guide dog for seven years, the time had come for Tracy Garbutt to retire Kurt and hang up the harness.
Having been a guide dog handler for 14 years, adapting to life without a guide dog was proving to be frustrating for Tracy. He had to slow down and readjust to navigating with a white cane.
“I always felt like I was getting lost, doubting myself and wondering if I had missed my destination or the landmarks, I used to know,” says Tracy. “Using GPS was helpful, but it isn’t always perfect, and I felt helpless as I waited for a passerby to come along and assist.”
In the spring of 2019, everything changed after Tracy had a run-in with a semi-trailer that was blocking an intersection. As he smacked right into the semi, it started driving away.
“I felt more vulnerable after that situation. I became afraid to cross the street when I was going to and from work. I hadn’t felt that insecure in a long time.”
After the accident, Tracy knew he needed some help for his safety and independence. He applied to CNIB Guide Dogs. A few months later, he was matched with Marion, a black Labrador Retriever.
“Marion licked my face as soon as she met me," says Tracy. "I just knew that she was going to be a great fit – she has a kind, gentle soul.”
After a series of interviews and home inspections, Tracy began his formal training with Shona Kemp, a Guide Dog Trainer with CNIB Guide Dogs.
“Training was more challenging this time around as my vision has decreased," says Tracy. "It took more mental focus; however, training in my own neighbourhood was more comforting than having to go elsewhere."
Tracy is pleased with the training he received from CNIB Guide Dogs.
"Marion has exceeded my expectations. Her ability to adapt to new situations and complex routes is outstanding, says Tracy. "Thank you for giving me my freedom and independence back.