What’s the difference?

Irish guide dog owners were contacted by the organisation last week, informing us about a change in the structure of the organisation because of a reduction in funding. Some redundancies will have to be made, but we are assured that it won’t affect the services we receive as clients. I have my doubts, but that’s a whole other debate!
People on the mailing list reacted strongly to this news, and brought up some interesting points. The list, as well as conversations I’ve had with guide dog owners from other countries made me wonder how the organisations differ. Every guide dog organisation obviously has the same aims, which are to provide trained dogs to guide people who are blind or visually impaired. The way they carry out this training, how they are funded and what happens after dog and owner qualify can be quite different in different parts of the world. I’m going to explain briefly how the Irish organisation works, and maybe if people leave comments we can see how other places are similar or different.
Yes, I’m bored!

When you apply for a guide dog in Ireland, you are required to fill out a lot of paperwork and complete a medical exam. You will meet a trainer who will ask a lot of questions: They will want to know about your lifestyle, personality, how much mobility you currently have and how much work you will have for the dog. They look at physical aspects such as your height, weight, walking speed, tone of voice and ability to correct the dog and follow its commands. They use all this information to match you with a suitable dog when it is fully trained and qualified. You usually go to meet the dog a few weeks before training, and go for a walk to make sure you are both a good match, though I know this didn’t always happen in the past.

The training in the residential centre in Cork can last up to three weeks, depending on how smoothly things go and if you have had a dog before. Classes are usually made up of between two and eight people. These can be first-time guide dog owners, previous dog users or a combination of both. I think a small number of clients have trained only from home, but I presume it wasn’t with their first dog. After the residential training, dog and owner will return home, where the trainer will provide training in your local area. When this is complete, you should be visited by a trainer within the first six months, and then once a year for the rest of your dog’s working life. If problems occur in the meantime you can request more aftercare from a trainer.

Guide dog owners pay just 1 euro for their dog. They are technically still owned by the organisation. Boarding at the centre costs 10 euros a week, and you get some of the dog’s equipment, i.e lead collar and harness free. You can purchase beds, feeding bowls, toys etc from the centre if you want. I assume that the organisation keeps costs so low because owning a guide dog shouldn’t depend on whether you can afford it or not. A lot of people with sight loss are unemployed or in lower paid jobs than sighted people. They shouldn’t be denied a dog because of their income.
Most of the organisation’s funds come from fundraising, with a small per centage of funds given by the government. Guide dog owners are not obliged to fundraise, though most are happy to help out with this.

I’m just curious to know how it works in other areas. Are their parts of the Irish guide dog system that you don’t agree with? How do other organisations deal with financial problems? Is there an ideal way to run a guide dog training school?

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9 thoughts on “What’s the difference?

  1. What an interesting debate Jenifer. Our organisation, well our district team is a bit similar. You probably know this, but you go to a hotel for two weeks after you are matched, then you come home and a GDMI visits you every day twice a day for two weeks after. I didn't actually know this, but you don't qualify until you have finished the training in your home area. I didn't know this until last week there.As for the paperwork, there is alot of that too. They also submit a report from your rehab worker, and you have to fill in a self declaration medical form. You have to do this for every year until you get the dog.After care i think is every month to start with i think, then every three months, 6 months and then a year. I think anyway.It costs 50 P to own a guidedog, and here they can pay for the food and vet bills if you needed them to. You have to buy the food bowl and water bowl and toys i think.By the way, congrats on your new job. Have you got skype set up yet?Take care, xoxox

  2. Thanks Torie. I haven't got skipe yet. I looked at headsets last week, meant to go back to the shop and get one but completely forgot! I have a head like a sieve! I'll let you know when I get it though.Jen x

  3. Well A very good debate to bring up.My District Team you have the Info visit where alot of the paperwork is filled out and then a few months later you have the Mobility assessment and then you move onto the Guide dog assessment where even more paperwork is filled out and then you finally get onto the waiting list. My team kept me updated every few months via email or phone and once they had found a dog a GDMI would come and bring the dog out to your home to do a matching walk and if successful training begins 2-3 weeks later but I got to have Pearce for the weekend before training because we needed to see how he was with our other 2 pet dogs and all other pets but all went well and hotel training began 10th Nov 08 – 21st Nov 08 and then we carried it on at home till we qualified on 28th Nov and I handed over my 50p and again it is because guide dogs dont want anyone to be restricted from having a guide dog. I then had aftercare every other day for 6 weeks and then she came again after Christmas and then last July and then sometimes they have had to come out due to little problems I was having all have been resolved. Everything is paid for unless you wish otherwise.Take care and good luck in your new job I enjoy switchboard and reception just not the general admin tasks

  4. I agree with the idea that only a minimal cost applies for the dog – no-one should be denied such a life enhancing opportunity due to financial difficulty. The problem obviously is in balancing that with the significant training and maintenance costs.There are so many worthy causes competing for each penny. I try to make a small contribution by co-sponsoring a pup but it is only a drop inb the ocean.I just hope Duchess is as lucky in her choice of owner as OJ ghas been. Hope the new job goes well – it is only a money raiser until your dream job appears.

  5. JenI don't think that services will be impacted, I think the decisions made now will ensure the continued viability of IGDB and thus the ability to provide both guide and assistance dogs into the future.Change is never easy but I guess as both you and Murray's dad have experienced in recent weeks – change provides opportunity and a challenge to do something different.The very best of luck with the current job – a stepping stone to something else!We were delighted to see the Glen Hansard night raised so much money.take careFiona

  6. Here in the states, the school I picked, Guide Dogs for the Blind, is funded all by private donations. They get no money from the government. Everything is free for us, except I bought food dishes and a container and a pop up kennel. We get 2 toys at school, the fleece the dog sleeps on while in the dorm, a bag of gromming supplies, a year supply of heart worm and flea and tick meds, and the equipment like harness and leashe. I applied in september and got accepted last month. I had to get my doctor to fill stuff out, I had to get a TB test and a tetanus shot, and I had to have my therapist, rehab teacher and O & M instructor fill stuff out. Then I had a preliminary phone interview, asking about my lifestyle and what not. Then I had a home visit and we talked a lot, filled out more paperwork, did the Juno walk and he watched my cane skills. All that went before a review board at the school, and I was accepted right at the end of December. My home visit was mid December. I'll go to the campus for three weeks for training. They have a dorm and room and board are free, as well as meals. Anything additional I'll buy myself, like more toys or what not. There is veterinary assistance if needed. I'll have a home visit about a month after I get back, and the entire time I'm working my dog, I'll have support if I need them to send someone. I don't know how the other schools work, but that's how mine works. Oh, the airfare is covered too; they make all the travel arrangements.

  7. In Australia there are a number of Guide Dogs organisations, and one national organisation. So I'll discuss what I know from Queensland and the Northern Territory and South Australia. One organisation is run for both SA and NT. In Queensland you apply for a dog, fill out a lot of paperwork and a medical exam. Then a trainer comes to the home and does an interview and checks the weight, height, fitness levels etc. Te ask about lifestyle, preference of dog, how other family members may handle me having a guide dog etc. Then another visit takes place where the trainer checks what routes know and my walking speed, then they do a pretend guide dog training session, with the instructor as the pretend guide dog with a real harness to assess handling skills and sense of direction and spacial awareness, listening skills etc. People get to meet a number of dogs to check which dog may suit them best, or to reassess handling skills or both, depending on the situation of that person or what programs the organisation is funding at that particular time.In the Northern Territory and South Australia, there is a similar process. But depending on loaction, some people don't get to meet a real guide dog beforehand. Also depending on the application process, the trainer may not use a real harness to test handling skills either, because if you've applied in another state they just look at the files. The trainer still had to do another assessment of my mobility and walking speed, because they can change from year to year, so they have to reaffirm some things like that. Then there's a waiting list ranging from six months to two years, depending on whether you've moved to another state after applying for a dog, whether it's the first, second, thrd dog, etc. In Australia, getting a guide dog is completely free. But some states make you pay for everything after you've got the dog, but SA and NT Guide Dogs only makes you pay for food and any other accessory not covered by the organisation. Vet bills are paid for, but in Qld the vet bills are discounted. I don't think the vet bills are discounted in other states. That's certainly the case in Perth.

  8. Leena, our distric team is like that, only with the visits every other day for 6 weeks.It is quite interesting comparing experiences etc.Take care, xoxox.

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