“Our daughter Deepa was very excited when she met her CNIB Buddy Dog for the first time. We had been reading Charlotte’s Web leading up to Chelsey’s arrival, and when they met in June 2020, Deepa greeted her with an enthusiastic “Salutations, Chelsey!”, and the black lab responded with a lick to Deepa’s cheek, making Deepa burst into giggles. We first heard about CNIB Buddy Dogs on social media and from the family of another child with sight loss who’s been partnered with a buddy dog. Initially, we wanted to get a buddy dog for Deepa after hearing dogs can be soothing and calming for children with anxiety, which could improve her independence and emotional regulation. This has been very true for Deepa. We were apprehensive at first because dogs can be quite costly. However, when we learned that CNIB helps cover expenses like food and veterinary bills, that opened doors for us. To feed Chelsey, one of us will weigh her food, put it in her bowl and Deepa will ask her to sit. When Chelsey is sitting, Deepa blows a whistle three times, which signals to Chelsey that it's time to eat. Eventually, we would like Deepa to be able to feed Chelsey without help. It will take some time, but we’re excited for it! We also practice clicker training, where Deepa will call Chelsey. When Chelsey comes, Deepa presses a clicker and gives Chelsey a treat. We love when Deepa takes Chelsey for walks. We use a double leash and a gentle leader so Deepa is able to hold one leash – one of us will hold the other leash for more security. Her left hand holds the leash and her right hand holds her cane. This is great, because Deepa isn't tempted to ask me to hold her hand, and she feels proud of herself when she leads Chelsey. Chelsey walks beside her so patiently. Whether she’s feeding Chelsey, clicker training or taking her for walks, all of these activities make Deepa so excited. Deepa loves the responsibility and she is thrilled whenever she gives Chelsey a command and Chelsey listens. Chelsey brings a lot of love and laughter into our home. She helps with Deepa's independence; she's a great conversation starter and helps her meet new people. Chelsey is such a snuggler too – her and Deepa like to cuddle more than anything!”
-Nikki and Zach Carroll, parents to Deepa (age 7)
A buddy dog is partnered with a child who is living with sight loss. Whether it’s feeding, grooming or walking this well-trained family pet, this will give the child an opportunity to care for a dog and make it easier to transition into a guide dog partnership in the future. If you think your child could benefit from being partnered with a CNIB Buddy Dog, please contact Miriam Mas, Program Lead, Buddy Dogs & Ambassador Dogs.