Non-profit hopes to raise $100k for International Guide Dog Day today
Non-profit hopes to raise $100k as part of International Guide Dog Day today
When Mr Alvin Ng, 52, met his guide dog Seretta for the first time in 2012, he felt "an instant connection" with her.
After he woke up blind from a coma 21 years ago, Mr Ng spent the next 15 years moving around with a white cane, an experience he recalled as being psychologically demanding and stressful.
In 2006, the retiree had a meeting with Guide Dogs Singapore (GDS), the only organisation that trains guide dogs for people with visual impairment here, and realised how much he yearned for a guide dog.
In 2012, Mr Ng and Seretta became the third guide dog team in Singapore. Now, the seven-year-old golden retriever and labrador cross and Mr Ng are inseparable.
"I cannot live without Seretta," Mr Alvin told The New Paper on Monday.
The duo are one of six guide dog teams in Singapore to have graduated from GDS.
As part of International Guide Dog Day today, the non-profit voluntary welfare organisation is hoping to raise $100,000.
The money will help fund new route training for GDS clients as part of their orientation and mobility training programme to enable independent travel using a white cane. The funds will also be used to form two new local guide dog teams.
GDS general manager Vanessa Loh, 42, said the organisation has seen an increased interest in guide dogs in recent years. She added that GDS has talked to more than five clients about forming guide dog teams in the past year.
Ms Loh said it takes about $45,000 to $50,000 for a guide dog team to graduate, including training and miscellaneous fees.
She added: "These guide dogs bring freedom to the blind and visually impaired..."
In 2012, Mr Ng spent 17 days in Victoria, Australia, and 10 days in Singapore to train with Seretta and a guide dog mobility instructor.
The training allowed the two to become more familiar with each other and develop an effective working relationship.
Seretta has given Mr Ng, who can only perceive the presence or absence of light, the freedom to travel around.
"Before her, going out was a chore. If I met with an obstacle along the way, I could only turn around and go back home. It was psychologically demanding," Mr Ng said.
Now, Seretta is able to be his eyes and gives him more confidence when going out.
For Mr Chia Hong Sen, 22, his guide dog Clare, with whom he was paired last July, has become more than just a mobility aid. Clare is now part of the family.
Mr Chia, a Singapore Institute of Management student, was born with retinal dystrophy, a condition in which he can only perceive light and shadows and able to differentiate colours to a certain extent. His vision started to worsen two years ago.
His ophthalmologist recommended that he look into getting a guide dog.
While the initial process was tough as he had never had a dog before and had to consider its well-being, the work has been worth it. Clare now helps him weave through crowded areas with ease and avoid unexpected obstacles in familiar places, such as when there are events held at the school atrium.
"While there are some lifestyle changes to consider, like regular feeding and toileting, a guide dog is definitely helpful, as long as you are willing to take up the responsibility to build strong teamwork with the dog," Mr Chia said.