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Meet an 86-year-old Ont. man who’s raised $70,000 and counting for dog guides

An 86-year-old man in Fergus, Ont. has dedicated the past nine years to giving back to an organization that changed his life so it can do the same for others.

Larry Wainwright was declared legally blind in 1976.

“I guess I sort of gave up, because I was only 38. I was still playing ball, still played hockey, could get in the car and go where I wanted to, and that all ended,” Wainwright said.

Eventually, he found himself at a Lions Clubs International meeting. The organization has been advocating for blind and visually impaired people since 1925.

It also trains vision dogs.

In 2014, Wainwright met Otis the Poodle. After a few months of training together, he brought the vision dog home.

“The first time he met me he just came over and laid his head on my lap so I guess, as I’ve said many times, it was a match made in heaven,” Wainwright said.

“I don’t know what I’d do today without him.”


Otis is trained to lead Wainright when walking to ensure his safety.

“He’s trained to stop, he’s trained to make sure if there’s an obstacle to stop and find a way around that obstacle. You have to listen to what the dog’s telling you and that’s all done through the handle,” Wainright explained, pointing at the harness connected to Otis’ back.

In order to do all of that, it takes dogs about 18 months of training and a significant amount of money.

Bev Crandell, the CEO of Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, said it costs about $35,000 to train one dog.

“It takes a lot to raise a dog right from our breeding program, where we breed our own dogs for training programs, through to their veterinary care and our foster puppy program. Then, we come back into the school where we do their advanced skill training and then they match with a client,” Crandell said.

“The importance of fundraising for us to be able to continue to do this work is critical.”


With the $35,000 price tag in mind, Wainwright set out to raise the same amount so another person could benefit from a dog guide.

“When Otis and I graduated, we talked about it and we set a goal,” he said.

“If he and I could raise enough -- $35,000 -- then we have helped somebody else get a precious gift because they have a need.”

Every year since, the duo, with the help of Wainright’s wife, has raised more and more money for the annual national Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides. They’ve more than doubled their initial goal.

“We’ve been able to raise over $70,000 in eight walks. That is the value of two dog guides,” he said.

Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides trains about 150 dogs per year.

They train in seven areas: canine vision, diabetic alert, seizure response, autism assistance, service dogs for mobility assistance, facility support dogs and hearing assistance.

Once they’re done training, the dogs are matched with a client at no cost.

Wainwright plans to continue fundraising to help more people connect with a life changing companion.

“That’s why we fundraise, that’s why we go out. So somebody else with a need can have a precious gift – and they are a precious gift – of a guide dog, at no cost to them,” he said.

This year’s Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides will take place on May 28 in more than 150 communities across Canada. Top Stories

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