All paws-itive vibes as guide dogs step up

Top News | Sophie Hui 21 Apr 2017

The first Hong Kong-born guide dogs celebrated their graduation yesterday and after being declared ready to help the visually impaired in their daily lives.

The two dogs - Happy and Holly, who both just turned two years old - were trained for a year by the Hong Kong Seeing Eye Dog Services and met their users three months ago.

Chan Koon-kar said her new furry friend Happy has already been a great help. "I don't get hurt often anymore as she would always alert me when there are obstacles on the road. She is smart and obedient, and she has even helped me find a shortcut in the streets. I take her to work too and everyone in the office likes her."

Hong Kong's first professional guide dog trainer, Edith Lee Yuen-yan, has so far trained eight guide dogs after completing a four-year training course. She was formally recognized by the International Guide Dogs Federation last December.

Lee said it was difficult to obtain international recognition. "I had to take the dogs to many places everyday for training. It required a lot of energy."

She also said it was not easy to take the dogs on public transport and to shopping malls since people did not exactly know how to react with them.

Her two young daughters, aged six and 10, are the reasons why she wanted to work as a trainer. "When I brought a puppy guide dog home for the first time, my daughters liked it so much. I am a guide dog trainer as it is a meaningful job to me and my daughters."

The services' chairman, Raymond Cheung Wai-man, said Lee's skills are needed in Hong Kong. He urged the government to provide more support for the development of guide dogs since they and their visually impaired users have many limitations.

The organization will also send two nine-month-old locally bred puppies - Bess and Bingo - to organizations in Japan and Taiwan next month for breeding purposes.

Puppies meant to become guide dogs are raised by local families and meet their users when they turn two. Cheung said they need more families in the system.

"We have 32 guide dogs but only 22 families can look after them. I hope the government can enhance the law as many retirees who live in public housing estates like to help but can't due to the housing limitation."

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