Handlers rely on their guide dogs each and every day to get them safely to and from work or school, shopping, leisure activities, or just a relaxing stroll around the neighbourhood on a sunny morning. Way more than just mobility aids, guide dogs are constant sources of affection and companionship. Many handlers believe that their guides increase their self-confidence and quality of life by providing them with unparalleled freedom and independence over the traditional white cane. The unique bond between handler and guide dog is often difficult to describe due to its encompassing nature.
Most handlers do everything in their power to maintain the health and well-being of their guides. Regular teeth brushing, ear cleaning, grooming, and vigilence as to their body weight all help to ensure that our dogs are kept in tip-top condition. Playing with our dogs is one of the best ways of keeping their stress levels down.
All guide dog schools teach techniques for maintaining canine health, and can often provide advice and guidance over the phone. A school's staff veterinarian is an excellent source of information, and can share a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics.
Sadly, our efforts are sometimes not enough, and despite our best intentions our dogs do become ill or injured. Everybody knows that as we age our chances of acquiring health problems increase exponentially. We all recognize the fact that over the years the pace of everyday life has accelerated, sometimes leaving us stressed and scrambling to catch up. Not surprisingly, These factors apply equally to guide dogs.
The illness or injury of a guide dog can be catastrophic for its handler. Not only is the handler faced with the temporary loss of companionship and independence, but his/her ability to travel safely may be compromised due to white cane skills which may have become rusty from disuse. Veterinary costs for items such as diagnostic tests, medical imaging, anesthesia, surgery, hospitalization, and medications can easily run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, leaving the handler in dire financial straights.
Fortunately, Guide Dog Users of Canada has a very special program called the Wellness Fund which may be able to provide assistance to handlers in financial need when their guide dogs become ill or injured. In essence the fund helps keep guide dogs guiding. In the past 2 years it did just that by providing $3,700.00 in grants to 6 individuals.
Applying To The Wellness Fund
Everyday costs associated with having a guide dog such as food, vaccinations, heartworm medication, and flea/tick preventatives are not eligible for reimbursement by the Wellness Fund. Some guide dog schools are able to partially or fully reimburse their graduates for these routine expenses, we suggest checking with your school if you're not sure. It is not necessary to be a member of GDUC to apply for financial assistance from this fund.
You can apply to the GDUC Wellness Fund prior to your dog receiving treatment, or up to 6 monthsafter the treatment has taken place. Applications involving retired guide dogs will be considered on a case by case basis.
Talk to your school before applying for financial assistance! Explain the situation and ask if there are funds available to help with non-routine veterinary expenses. While dealing with your dog's health situation you may request that your school's staff veterinarian consult with your canine health professional about the diagnosis, course of treatment, and anticipated outcomes.
Depending on the costs involved it may be advantageous to apply for funding from multiple sources. For example, many applicants to the GDUC Wellness Fund also apply to the CNIB Guide Dog Assistance Fund.
Get your paperwork together! The Wellness Fund Committee will need to see items such as detailed invoices and your veterinarian's clinical/surgical notes. If you have the necessary equipment you can scan and email the documents to us. Arrangements can also be made for you to fax or mail the documents although the use of regular mail is not recommended as it may slow down the application process. If you wish we can even contact your vet and obtain the documents we need directly through his/her office. In this case please be sure to give your vet permission to release the information to us.
In order to protect your privacy, applications to the GDUC Wellness Fund are processed and stored on our secure server. We've done our best to make it as easy as possible for you to give us the information we need to consider providing you with the requested funds. If you would like assistance with the application, or submitting your documentation, please Contact The Wellness Fund Committee.
- If you do not already have one, please Create a My GDUC Account
- If you already have a My GDUC Account, please Log Into My GDUC
- Fill in the resulting forms:
- If we don't have information about your guide dog, you'll be asked to supply it.
- You will next be asked to complete a form which details your claim.
- Finally, you will be asked to agree to terms and conditions necessary for the Wellness Fund Committee to consider your application.
Once we have received your application and supporting documentation, the Wellness Fund Committee will convene to consider your situation. The information you provided us with will be treated in the strictest confidence. The Committee's recommendation will then be brought forward to GDUC's Board of Directors for final approval. Not to worry, your name, personal information, and the details of your application will never be revealed. If your application is approved only members of the Wellness Fund Committee and our Treasurer will have access to the information necessary to get you paid.
Guide Dog Users of Canada may, at its sole discretion, opt to pay, partially pay, or reject your application. Its decision is final and binding on all parties.
Supporting The Wellness Fund
The best and easiest way to support the GDUC Wellness Fund is by making an online donation through CanadaHelps. Please Contact Our Treasurer if you wish to make alternate donation arrangements.
Guide Dog Users of Canada would like to recognize Paul A. Bennett of LaBeag Publishing who is donating the proceeds of sale of the eBook In Dog We Trust to the Wellness Fund.
Listen to the In Dog We Trust Presentation From Our 2014 Conference