Getting a guide dog can transform the life of a blind or visually impaired person, and the same is true for an autistic child who gets an assistance dog.
About Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind
Founded in 1976 by the late Mrs Mary Dunlop and current President, Mr Jim Dennehy, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind has its national Headquarters and Training Centre is in Cork.
Currently, they support over 300 working guide and assistance dog partnerships in Ireland. In 2005 they launched the Assistance Dog Programme for families of children with autism – a first for Europe The organisation raises 80% of its annual income through fundraising and voluntary donations and is supported by a network of over 100 volunteer branches and many hundreds of volunteers across the country.
Although it costs an estimated €40,000 to raise and train a dog, all services are provided free of charge and include:
- Guide Dogs Programme: For blind and vision impaired persons
- Assistance Dogs Programme: For families of children with autism
- Orientation and Mobility Training : Long cane training
- Independent Living Skills Training: Home skill
Guide Dogs are specially bred from carefully chosen parents, and they undergo a long training process before they are ready to work with their new owners.
Benefits of a guide dog
Having a Guide dog bring a range of benefits for blind or visually impaired people:
- Enhances work opportunities
- Encourages an active social life
- Improves health and fitness
- Provides assistance in locating destinations
- Guides the owner around obstacles
- Offers great companionship
For children with autism, having an assistance dog can be life changing. Benefits for a child can include:
- A greater aptitude towards learning
- Improved participation in social activities
- Improved communications skills
- A greater sense of responsibility
- Improved confidence and independence
How can you help?
There are a range of ways you can help, from a simple donation, to running an event or by becoming a puppy walker – find out more.
Another way, which you may not know about, is by offering a home to a dog.
Not all dogs born and entering the training programmes qualify as Guide or Assistance Dogs. From time to time Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind need to rehome dogs that have been withdrawn from training or retired from working life.
They are passionate about dogs and committed to ensuring their proper care. For this reason, have implemented an application process for rehomed dogs. If you are interested in applying to offer a home to one of these dogs, you can get more information here.
We talked about guide dogs, assistance dogs and what they do on Ireland AM on TV3 this morning, and had the lovely guide dog Honey on the show.