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Argo is one of 150 dogs trained to work with autistic children and he was specially chosen to work with Noah and his family. They waited nearly a year for this black lab that had been originally selected for the vision program.

Lions Club to raise money for guide dog program
 

Local Lions are hoping to be the top dogs in an upcoming national fundraiser.

On Sunday, May 25 at Greenwood Mall, beginning at 9 a.m.the Kingston Lions Club is organizing the annual Purina® Walk for Dog Guides. This fundraiser helps provide dog guides to help people with disabilities.

Ali MacDonald, of Greenwood, says Noah, her 12-year-old son, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was about two years old. While Noah’s generally a pleasant and happy boy, he finds some noises upsetting and he can feel overwhelmed in crowds.

Everyday sounds from microwave ovens and snow blowers, even the low hum of winter tires are all potential causes of anxiety. His first reaction is to run away from these stressful situations, putting his safety at risk.

Ali, who has Multiple Sclerosis, isn’t able to run after Noah. It’s hard to relax and enjoy family outings together, as Noah’s safety is always on the minds of her husband Pete, and their three other children.

“Noah could bolt away from us during a walk, dart out in front of a car, or wander from the house and not be able to tell anyone his address,” she says.

Always At Risk

Special door locks, alarms, and watchful supervision keep him safe at home, but outside, he is always at risk. When Ali heard about a guide dog program for autistic children being offered through the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, she immediately applied.

This group doesn’t receive any government funding and provides dog guides to those with disabilities at no cost. The foundation has six guide dog programs in place, helping people cope with vision and hearing impairments, as well as medical conditions such as autism, epilepsy, and diabetes.

It costs $25,000 to train and place one dog guide, but because of the funds raised by the Purina Walk for Dog Guides, people can receive them at no cost. Ali MacDonald says thanks to Argo, Noah’s guide dog, some of the emotional strain has been lifted from her family.

Argo

Argo is one of 150 dogs trained to work with autistic children and he was specially chosen to work with Noah and his family. They waited nearly a year for this black lab that had been originally selected for the vision program, according to Ali.

Soon after the MacDonalds applied to the program, its lead dog trainer, Chris Fowler, visited them to take an assessment. He believed Argo would be the perfect match for Noah’s personality and needs.

Each child and dog team is carefully matched for suitability and each dog is trained specifically to support the child’s unique needs. Like any black lab, Argo loves to curl up with his best boy; but he’s all business when he puts on his working vest, according to Ali.

“Argo is very professional when he puts on his uniform,” she says. “He’s a young dog with an old soul. He goes everywhere with Noah, even to school. We love talking about Argo and this program, we can’t say enough about it.”

Protecting Noah

The Lions Foundation flew Noah’s parents to Oakville to meet Argo and learn the basics of how the program works. Noah is linked by a special belt to Argo, who is trained to sit, or lie down, anchoring Noah in place.

Aside from keeping Noah physically safe, Ali says Argo helps to ease some of Noah’s anxiety and increase his ability to socialize with new people. Noah is proud of his dog and accepts the attention the dog generates.

“Everyone wants to know about Argo and how he helps Noah,” she says. “It’s a neat bond, very unique. Argo offers physical security, anchoring Noah. But he also provides a calming and reassuring presence.”

Dog Walk

The Kingston dog walk is one of 200 that are taking place across Canada this spring, raising funds to train dog guides. Barb Lyle, of the Kingston Lions Club, says Argo is one of two dogs that have been specially trained for children in the Valley.

Last year about 40 people joined the walk that seems to get a little bigger every year. Over the years this walk has collectively raised more than $10 million across the country.

To support the local Lions Club visit: https://www.purinawalkfordogguides.com/locations/walk.cfm?ID=75

To learn more about how Argo and other dog guides help families, contact Pete and Ali MacDonald, at peteali@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Kingston Lions Club, Lions Foundation, Purina Walk for Dog Guides

Geographic location: Oakville, Dog Walk, Canada

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