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CNIB Guide Dogs celebrates first guide dog graduates

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TORONTONovember 23, 2018 After months of extensive training, CNIB Guide Dogs is excited to announce the graduation of its inaugural guide dog class. In total, six dogs have been paired with handlers from across Canada and are ready to embark on a lifelong journey in helping their human counterpart live a fully independent life.

"This is a milestone for our guide dog program," said John Rafferty, CNIB president and CEO. "We've been able to see our vision for this program come to life and exceed our expectations. Today, we get to see it all come together as our first guide dogs and their handlers start on their new journey together."

The six graduating dogs have been partnered with individuals from across the country:

  • Charles Mossop from Qualicum, B.C., has been matched with Baker;
  • Ashley Nemeth, Regina, Sask., has been matched with Danson;
  • Danika Blackstock, Kitchener, Ont., has been matched with Ulysses;
  • Cindy Shone, Toronto, Ont., has been matched with Barney;
  • Alycia Pottie, Halifax, N.S., has been matched with Piper; and
  • Sandy Benoit – Kanata, Ont., has been matched with Keller.

Launched 18 months ago, the program was designed to train guide dogs to specifically meet the needs of people with sight loss, with training philosophies focused on maximizing success. With its person-centric focus, the program offers training tailored to the needs of each guide dog partnership and is at no cost to the user. Additionally, it offers a full suite of follow-up support throughout the dog's working life, including additional and refresher training, peer support and social groups.

"I'm pleased this new program is expanding the availability of guide dogs in Canada," says Victoria Nolan, Head, Stakeholder Relations & Community Engagement, CNIB Guide Dog Program. "We look forward to continuing to support our first graduating class with ongoing training and aftercare as they return to their home communities this week.”

There are almost half a million blind and partially sighted people in Canada. For some, a guide dog provides an unparalleled level of mobility, freedom and confidence — opening up the world in a whole new way. To help support the ever-expanding program, the CNIB Foundation will be launching its holiday guide dog campaign on November 27, 2018.

About the CNIB Foundation

Celebrating 100 years in 2018, the CNIB Foundation is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today. We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion. Our work is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast. To learn more or get involved, visit


For more information, please contact:

Matisse Hamel-Nelis
Specialist, Strategic Communications
416-486-2500 ext. 8355

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