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By Mark Pavilons
Nobleton's Bev Berger has had some very special companions in the past three decades.
This fall, Berger will mark her 30th anniversary supporting the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
With Lotus by her side, Berger will hit the 30-walk milestone this May 26, when the Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides takes place. The Nobleton Lions have been strong supporters of both Berger and the dog guide program.
Berger and Lotus are asking for the public's support, to make this an event to remember.
“Obviously after 30 years of travelling behind a dog guide I can confirm that they work!” she said.
All proceeds of this national walk go to the training of future dog guides – insurance for Canadians with a range of disabilities.
“I feel like I'm the club's mascot,” she said. “They did for me, so I can do for them.”
She added the local club members do so very much behind the scenes helping others and they never seek any credit or recognition.
Lotus, affectionately known as “the tank,” is Bev Berger's fifth dog guide.
Being a veteran recipient, Berger has become the spokesperson for the Lions Foundation and dog guide program.
The small but mighty Nobleton Lions Club actually approached Berger about getting her first dog, after seeing her out and about using her white cane. Who knew this would be the beginning of a lifelong friendship and bond.
In September of 1989 Berger's life changed forever and for the better. Her first dog, Reb became her new set of “wheels” and after some initial adjustment, Reb became her best friend, setting the stage for the future.
Costs vary, but hover around $25,000 for each dog, when you consider breeding, foster families, medical services and intensive training. Recipients stay at the Lions' facility for one month and engage in daily training with their new companions.
Berger wants to ensure there are always funds to keep the programs going and expanding. In recent years, there has been a tremendous desire for service dogs for autistic individuals.
It's been her crusade, a successful one at that. The witty and well spoken Berger is the perfect spokesperson for the Lions Foundation of Canada's Dog Guide program, a role she's helped shape over the decades. Of course, her four-legged companions often steal the show when she speaks to audiences across Canada about the Lions' commitment, one that dates back almost 100 years.
The need for a dog guide can happen “out of the blue.” If someone suffers from epilepsy, hearing or vision loss, it's such a comfort to leave your house in the company of a dog guide.
“I am often asked, ‘what does your dog guide do for you?' I am blind. My dog is not. Therefore, I have the privilege of using his trained eyes to guide me on specific routes and more importantly, to keep me safe,” Berger explained. “My role in our team is to provide direction and the dog's role is safety. The bond of trust is incredible and I admit that it does require a certain amount of working time together to establish that trust – isn't that true of all relationships?
“There are times unfortunately when my mobility is restricted, not due to the ability of my dog guide but simply due to the reality of heavy equipment in our community doing the work of upgrades and improvement. I respect the skills of my dog, however, I also respect that he remains a dog and his training encourages him to problem solve, not to his benefit, but mine!
“A dog guide from Lions Foundation has given me independence for 30 years!”
“I am grateful for the support of the Nobleton Lions Club for all of those years – they encouraged me to consider partnering with a LFC dog guide way back in 1989. And, since that time they have generously backed my participation in Walk for Dog Guide events. I have never missed a Walk and nor have the Nobleton Lions!”
There are a few ways to support the Lions and Berger. Maybe you'd prefer to be part of the pack! Meet at the gazebo in front of the Nobleton Library for 9 a.m. registration the day fo the walk. It's a comfortable 5-kilometre walk starting at 10 a.m. Everyone is welcome and so are dogs.
If possible, please sponsor Bev online at https://www.walkfordogguides.com/locations/walker.cfm?ID=801&EventID=1793
Alternatively, you can also send a cheque to:
Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides Nobleton, 32 Simon Henry Ave., Nobleton, ON. L0G 1N0.
In the early 1980s Lions Clubs across Canada sought to develop a national project to reflect their service to Canadians with visual impairments. The result was Lions Foundation of Canada and its founding program, Canine Vision Canada, which was established in 1985. Since then the Foundation has grown to include additional Dog Guide programs for Hearing, Service, Seizure Response, Autism Assistance, Diabetic Alert, and newly introduced, Support Dog Guides.
Lions Foundation of Canada's mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them Dog Guides at no cost. To do this, the Foundation operates Dog Guides Canada, a preeminent national training school and charity that assists individuals with disabilities through specialized Dog Guide programs. These Dog Guides are provided at no cost to eligible Canadians from coast to coast despite costing $25,000 to train and place.
The Foundation relies on donations from individuals, service clubs, foundations and corporations, as well as the annual Pet Valu Dog Guide Walk, scheduled this year for Sunday, May 26, starting at 9 a.m. at the Nobleton Gazebo.
Excerpt: Nobleton’s Bev Berger has had some very special companions in the past three decades. This fall, Berger will mark her 30th anniversary supporting the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
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