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Two black Labs lay side-by-side on a dog bed, on a patio outside on a sunny day.

Pup-dates: Coping with COVID-19

By Karen Hanlon, Canine Development & Training Manager, CNIB Guide Dogs

[Photo provided by Madison Kelly, daughter of Mark Kelly, CNIB Guide Dogs Puppy Raiser and Boarder]

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire planet in some way, and during these strange and worrying times, all of us have had to change the way we live and operate our businesses – and CNIB Guide Dogs is no exception. We are doing our part to flatten the curve by making some temporary changes to our program. 

We are all practicing safe social distancing, washing our hands regularly and, we are working from home. But before we could hunker down in our homes, we had to make sure our dogs and puppies were going to be safe, sound and happy. 

We closed the Canine Campus and made arrangements for our 17 dogs-in-training to go to homes where they would be cared for until it is safe to re-open the training facility. 

Volunteer boarders stepped up and offered to take our dogs-in-training into their homes – some even offered to look after two. People who couldn't board dogs before due to work commitments are now able to because they are working from home. 

Our CNIB Guide Dogs team also connected with the volunteers looking after our dogs to provide support and resources. Our puppy raising supervisors contacted puppy raisers to arrange dog food deliveries and inform them that the young dogs who were due to arrive at the Canine Campus for advanced training would be staying with their puppy raisers longer than planned because of the situation. Everyone was understanding and eager to help. 

Our guide dog mobility instructors got in touch with guide dog handlers to let them know that we are just a phone call away should they need any support. Buddy dog and ambassador dog partners were also contacted by our program leads with the same message. And, the support is ongoing.

Due to travel restrictions, we're unable to bring new puppies into our program, but once this is all over and we are back to normal, the pups will start coming again. What a good day that will be!

Until then, everyone at CNIB Guide Dogs is looking forward to the end of this pandemic, so we can get back to our goal of providing guide dogs to Canadians living with sight loss. Thank you to everyone who continues to support CNIB Guide Dogs. We hope you are safe and healthy.