Episode 7 Guide Dogs – Speed and Personality

Better Together With A Life Worth Living
Better Together With A Life Worth Living
Episode 7 Guide Dogs - Speed and Personality

Barbara Peacock  00:07

Welcome to Better Together with A Life Worth Living. I’m Barbara Peacock and our stories teach, inspire and bind people together. Thanks to Ann and Carl Fama for sponsoring this episode of the podcast.

You know what it’s like when you go to sleep at night, and you look forward to getting up the next morning to see what the new day holds for you? When Ryan Hooey was in his late 20s, he went to sleep one night and woke up blind. Ryan, and his guide dog Joe, are in the studio with me, Joe’s a three-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab, Labrador Retriever. He’s kind of the strong silent type. So, he’s not likely to speak during this interview, but rest assured, he’s right there beside Ryan. And later in our podcast, we’re also going to hear from Joe’s trainer. Ryan, by the way, is the program lead for the CNIB here in Windsor for Southwest and North Ontario. Is that right, Ryan?

Ryan Hooey  01:04

Thanks for having me. Yes, you’re correct.

Barbara Peacock  01:07

Ryan, I want you to take us back to that night. What, what happened? You just you went to sleep at night?

Ryan Hooey  01:13

You know what everyone always asked that question that’s so anticlimactic. I think everyone expects like this big disaster story. But really, I just thought it was a normal night I was bowling. I drove home. I mean, I wore reading glasses, and I went to bed, plugged my phone in, got up the next morning couldn’t see my phone. I thought well OK maybe it’s dark in here. Maybe it’s something else. I’m not sure. But I just couldn’t see. And I didn’t really start to panic until they started mentioning surgery and stuff. And that was a few days later. But near the end, that was a Sunday, near the end of the week. Thursday, I was in Toronto having surgery.

Barbara Peacock  01:50

Now, had you any indication this might happen? Anything that happened before?

Ryan Hooey  01:56

Not really. I wear reading glasses, but I mean, they corrected everything and I could still read. I could still do everything. I was driving very much as a sighted individual. And I guess all my blood vessels just decided to die one night in my in my eyes. I know that sounds crazy. But I guess they all sort of just stopped getting oxygen, oxygen or deoxygenated. Whatever the bad one is, they started getting that and they just sort of collapsed onto my retinas and detached my retinas in both eyes at the same time.

Barbara Peacock  02:26

Now about a decade ago, my right retina detached. And over the next several months, I had to go through a whole bunch of procedures, you know all about that, because you went through way more than I did. But during that time, my mind was like, busy with all kinds of what ifs because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Did your mind go there?

Ryan Hooey  02:50

It did for a minute or two. But I think this sounds strange, but I think it happened the way it should have happened. I think if I was a gradual loss of vision, I don’t know that I would handle that as well. I’m more of a push me in the water and see if I can swim and that’s exactly what this situation did. I think that it really made me adjust. I’m a baseball player, right, and you get split second timing to think, am I gonna swing at this curveball or let it go. And that’s the way I’ve kind of lived my life. And I think that this vision loss has kind of been like that. Whereas if it was gradual over weeks, months, years, I don’t know I would handle it the same way. I don’t know how I would handle that. I commend the others, my work colleagues and the other people that we support I really commend them on, I know it sounds weird, but their gradual loss of vision, I feel like would be much more significant than mine.

Barbara Peacock  03:41

Yes. totally. But what do they say about that though? What do other people who lost it gradually say about what you’re saying?

Ryan Hooey  03:49

I think they have this a similar reaction. It’s just like, well, I can’t believe that happened you overnight. That’s crazy. But I don’t know. I think one would say they prefer it that way. Cuz I would love to be able to see but I think you know, the preference when push comes to shove, I think I would rather Okay, push me in the deep end, I’ll make your adjustments and live.

Barbara Peacock  04:07

Was there a person who came along or was an entirely just from within you, that you got through this,

Ryan Hooey  04:13

I wouldn’t be where I am without the support system I have. And it’s still, to this day, a really good support system, my friends and family, they really, really helped me out a lot. You know, they do a lot of sighted things for me, you know, give me rides and stuff like that. And they’ve really helped me kind of adjust and pushed me to be where I am. Growing up with that sports background. It really helped out too, because you’ve always been a part of a team and still to this day, it’s gonna be lifelong. And I know that I’m gonna have to be part of that team and just keep pushing forward, right?

Barbara Peacock  04:43

Mm hmm. Now, you lost your sight when you think you said you were 27 or 28 weren’t you?

Ryan Hooey  04:49

Yes, Oh, those are the days yeah.

Barbara Peacock  04:51

And I think you’re 35 now although you don’t look 35

Ryan Hooey  04:54

Don’t give away my secrets. Take a picture you know, Tom Cruise. In front of somebody

Barbara Peacock  05:01

Pretty close, yeah, just you’re not going to turn the tables on me though I can tell you that. But what I was going to say was you’re at that stage where we take all those hopes and dreams we had in our teens and our early 20s. And then the age you were at, now I’m putting these into place, this is what I’m going to do, you know? So looking back, who you were before, what you were doing before? And now how has this changed the course you’d set for yourself?

Ryan Hooey  05:35

It definitely has changed. But I still think those dreams are there. And like, I think they’ve just been adjusted a little bit. I still want to be successful, you still want to have the family, you still want to do this and do that. And you can still do those things. It’s just you might have to accomplish them in a different way. Take for instance, if you and I are getting to the mall, we want to go to the mall, you might drive I’m walking, we still get to the mall, it’s just we do it differently, right? I think you just sort of changed your approach a little bit, I don’t think you’re you necessarily have to change your dreams, unless my dream is to be a pilot, then you know, we’re probably talking a little bit of a change. But I think you know, those dreams are still there, you just really have to look hard at how you’re going to get there. And I was a big person, I was focused on solutions or, not on solutions, on the end. You know, it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you get there. But now it’s like, Wow, how am I going to get there. And I think that’s where my approach sort of changes for something like this.

Barbara Peacock  06:27

I remember you’re just making me think of something this was from, like 40-45 years ago, when I was early in my broadcast career. And I remember talking to this fellow, he was a farmer. And he lost his sight. And like, as you said, it was quite a sudden thing. And he had been a downhill skier and everything and he downhill skied with his buddy. And I remember the time thinking I like I just can’t imagine that. So you said you were a baseball player. Are you a baseball player now?

Ryan Hooey  07:01

I haven’t been. But I would like to be I mean, there’s the beeper baseball. There’s all kinds of adaptive sports that you can play. So it’s like the journey, if you’re an athlete, and you happen to lose your sight or you know, have something horrible happened to you, I don’t think that the journey is over, you can still do the athlete thing, it’s just again, you have to change it. I’ve learned to love running, I run every day. And I run with a guide runner. And it’s really strange the way you explain it, but it’s like you and I are running, we would tie our waist together with like a three-foot rope between us and we just run and you kind of make sure I don’t run into anything. And I kind of just follow along. And it’s kind of something that I like to do now. It’s simple. The adaptation is $4, you know, maximum, and it’s just you know, you can go there’s a lot of different sports that people who live with a vision impairment do play and there’s even, you know, the downhill skiing. There’s like Paralympic skiers, and there’s all kinds of crazy things that I don’t even know that I would have the skills to do. There’s blind hockey, I’m getting into that, too. It’s kind of cool. Some of the things that they have going on. So, there’s a whole world out there.

Barbara Peacock  08:02

Are you thinking you’re going to get into other sports?

Ryan Hooey  08:05

My my mind says yes, but my 35 year old body says, maybe you should rethink this.

Barbara Peacock  08:11

Okay, well, Ryan, I’m twice as old as you. Running, that whole concept is making my knees hurt.

I’d like to thank our sponsors for today’s podcast, Ann and Carl Fama. You’re listening to Better Together with A Life Worth Living.

And our other guest is Rob Kramer, who is a guide dog mobility instructor with the CNIB. And he worked with Ryan and with his dog, Joe, and thanks for being on the line with us, Rob. Hi.

Rob Kramer  08:45

Thanks for having me.

Barbara Peacock  08:47

When I say you’re a guide dog mobility instructor, what does that mean?

Rob Kramer  08:52

Well, it’s a bit of a specialized role. Part of the role involves training the dogs, teaching them the skills required to keep someone safe, and act as a guide dog. And the other half of the role is matching a dog to an individual and then training that team together.

Barbara Peacock  09:11

So with the dog end of things, what sets a potential guide dog apart from a pet?

Rob Kramer  09:19

There’s a whole process that goes into it. From the breeding, we use specialized breeders, so the dogs come from lines that have been selected for their for their temperamental traits and their health as well. And then they’re placed in volunteer puppy raising homes. So those volunteers do a massive, massive job for us. They work with staff members who are puppy raising supervisors, and they focus on socializing those pups, getting them to behave well in the home, working on basic obedience, and taking them anywhere where a person might go so on public transport in the city, all through neighborhoods dealing with distractions. So they’re just setting that dog up for success. Once they reach approximately 15 months of age, they enter what we call formal training. They’re matched with a guide dog trainer, who’s going to actually teach them to be a guide dog. They’re teaching them the skills to stop at curbs, avoid obstacles, respond to speed control, and generally keep someone safe. When they get to that point is when we start to play matchmaker.

Barbara Peacock  10:30

I want to ask you about that in a minute. But when they get to that, let’s say 15-month-old stage, is that when you know whether they’re suited for this, or maybe they’re suited to be a pet,

Rob Kramer  10:41

We’re constantly assessing the dogs. Some dogs might tell us at a very young age, that it’s not a career that suited for them. We don’t want to force dogs into it. If the dogs not suited for it, we’ll find an alternative career path. We have a Buddy Dog program, where we match dogs with children with sight loss. And that’s just preparing them for future guide dog mobility, potentially, we also have Ambassador Dogs who do public relations and fundraising for us. So we look at it, that might be a young age, or sometimes through trainings. We’re constantly assessing whether it is the right job for them. And that could be six months. Or sometimes, we may see that they struggle with pressure later in the training program. Because it towards the end of training, we’re doing more intensive work, we’re asking more of the dog to make a lot of decisions. And some dogs may struggle with the responsibility essentially.

Barbara Peacock  11:43

Now, Rob and Ryan, I happen to know that people get confused about service dogs or guide dogs versus therapy dogs, because my I’ve had three dogs who were therapy dogs with St. John Ambulance. Now they didn’t have to have any special training. They simply had a friendly nature that qualified them to visit elderly residents and care. But guide dogs are a whole other level from that. Explain that. And I think people get confused when they see a dog in a harness.

Rob Kramer  12:14

Yeah, for sure. So there’s a variety of different types of service dogs that will have public access. And those dogs need to be trained by an organization, typically anyways, but they need to have skills training, that are actually helping someone with a condition. Whereas a therapy dog might act as a support that could go into facilities where they’re welcomed. But they’re not actually performing tasks, medical tasks, essentially,

Barbara Peacock  12:48

Ryan, I’m sure you get asked, and Rob would see this all the time, you get asked the opposite of what those of us who have therapy dogs, I would go into long term care. And somebody would be in the elevator and they’d say, Oh, I wish I could pet your dog. And I’m like, “Well, that’s what she’s here for.” So anybody can pet her. The staff used to love petting her. But you are the opposite. You have to make sure they don’t do that. True.

Ryan Hooey  13:17

Absolutely. And it’s one of the hardest things because I’m a dog lover myself and most people that ask are dog lovers and they’re like, I just want to pet him. And you know what, when he’s working you don’t watch him just pretend like he’s, my cane. You wouldn’t want to pet my red and white mobility cane. Just act like he’s not even there. He’s a cane. But I think he works hard, he runs hard, he plays hard. But when he deserves coffee breaks, like we just had one out front where you got to pet him I like to call his little five minutes, okay, sure, as long as the people are okay with me taking off his vest because he’s not a guide dog when he’s not in a vest, right? Think of it like a police officer, a police officer is a police officer when in uniform. But when he’s out of uniform, he’s just a civilian. And that’s the same with Joe. So when I take off his vest, his demeanor changes. And you can pet him rub his belly, he’ll play with you bring your toys, throw the ball, go get it. He’s just a normal, everyday pet. He’s just really well trained.

Barbara Peacock  14:13

And I’m glad I wore dark pants today because I have nice golden lab hair on my pants now. I’ll take that home with me. Rob, what told you that Ryan and Joe would be a good match?

Rob Kramer  14:27

It’s not a precise science, but it kind of breaks down into a few components. I was looking at some practical elements. Ryan and Joe both had a similar walking speed. That’s one of the most important things that we consider is that speeds are pretty close to each other. Then I looked at what Ryan needed and just a fair bit of travel with his job. So he needed a dog that was able to adapt to any environment and just confidently work without necessarily having familiarity in the environment and that sort of thing. He’s sort of takes it easy, doesn’t really get rattled by any sort of changes. As long as he’s with Ryan, he’s good, he’s happy. So that was a big part of it.

Barbara Peacock  15:14

I just want to I want to back up for one second there, Rob. Ryan, what does it mean that you and Joe have the same walking speed?

Ryan Hooey  15:21

It’s funny, I wanted to touch base with that, because it’s, it’s so I’ll just say it, Rob has trained a lot of teams. And he said, we were if not the slowest, one of the slowest ever. I’m very cautious when I walk. Even when I’m not with Joe and I was using my cane I do the zombie walk arms out in front. So I’m not running into things. And it was a big adjustment to kind of switch off because you lose that tactile from the cane when you when you go to Joe.  We kind of stop and smell the roses he saunters more than he’s running. And if I would have got a quick guide dog, I would have been frightened, right. And then the quick guide dog would have eventually got bored like, Oh, this guy is so slow. You have to kind of really look at the walking speed. And I’m really glad. I like to tell people that Joe is the dog version of me. We’re so similar that we just, you know, stop and smell the roses take takes one step at a time and then go for it right?

Rob Kramer  16:15

I think you’re you’re cruisers, you’re almost the Cadillac of guide dog teams is what?

Ryan Hooey  16:21

I’ll take it.

Barbara Peacock  16:23

Now, which one was the better student Rob?

Rob Kramer  16:28

They were both a pleasure to work with.

Barbara Peacock  16:30

Oh boy, we’ll get you a job in the diplomatic service here. You get to watch as the person and the dog meet, and they learn to work together. What are your feelings Rob as you’re watching them?

Rob Kramer  16:45

To be honest, in the initial moment, when I bring someone a dog, I feel almost like an intruder. I feel like it’s very humbling to be there for that moment. But it almost feels like being a third wheel on a date. I try and remove myself as quick as I can. So they can have that special moment because it’s really the beginning of a long and beautiful working relationship. I want to give people the space. But then seeing their first moments and seeing the team progress day to day really fills me with pride. And I often reflect back to how many people contributed to that result. I often say it takes a village to raise a guide dog. I mentioned puppy raisers before, but we have admin staff. We have people in our canine campus that are looking after the dog’s health and welfare. We have veterinary staff. There’s a lot of people that go into reaching that result. I’m just honored that I get to witness it.

Barbara Peacock  17:45

I feel like I should go back and ask you what it’s like to be a third wheel on a on a date. But that’s probably a different podcast. So we’ll carry on here. You’re listening to Better Together with A Life Worth Living. I’m speaking with Rob Kramer, who trained guide dog Joe who’s sitting right beside me. Who’s in the studio with his human Ryan Hooey. Ryan lost his sight in his late 20s. Now in his mid 30s. He was matched with Joe almost a year ago,

Ryan Hooey  18:17

Just over just over a year, November 20, or November 16, excuse me, 2020

Barbara Peacock  18:23

November of 2020. Our sponsors for this podcast are Windsor’s own Ann and Carl Fama.  Now, Rob and Ryan, as both of you know, some dogs are handsome and powerful, like Joe, some are cute. Also, Joe. But to me the best things about dogs are not things we can see with our eyes. Would you agree with that?

Ryan Hooey  18:52

Yes, you know what? Joe gets noticed everywhere he goes. And I think you know, it’s partially because hey, look at the dog in the grocery store. Like how many times do you actually see that? Right? And I really think that it’s funny because people actually know his name in my building, but they don’t know my name. They’re like, Oh, look, there’s Joe. Right? And like, oh, there’s Abby, my daughter, like, they know, Joe and Abby. But they’re like, oh, there’s that guy that’s with them. Right? And I think yeah, Joe has a lot of qualities. I can always tell when he’s there. Sometimes it’s really funny. He’s got this innocent, I don’t even know how to call it but it is as if he knows why he’s matched with me sometimes, When he’s out of harness, he’ll be standing in the middle of the hallway, and he’ll expect me to walk around him. It’s like, Hey, I can’t see you. Like you should be moving out of my way kind of thing. So, sometimes I’m like, does he know why he’s here? But then as soon as the work time he’s like, Yep, let’s go. He loves to work. And that’s what really the innocence of him and as he grows older and gets to be with me and Abby I know he’s already been a welcomed addition and a loved addition to the family for sure, but it can only get better from here.

Barbara Peacock  19:58

Rob, what springs to your mind when I said that about you know that the best things about dogs are things you can’t see.

Rob Kramer  20:05

I think it’s really accurate because what I love most about dogs is they’re really intuitive. And I think they’re experts at reading and responding to our body language. We’ve been living together for 1000s of years, humans and dogs. And we’re, we’re getting slowly better at reading their body language and reading what they’re trying to tell us. But I think they’re so far ahead of us in reading, reading our body language and responding to it in a way that really helps them to become guide dogs because that connection, Joe will be looking to Ryan and seeing what he needs while he’s in harness, and learning. And I’m hoping that he learns to respond to Ryan walking through his apartment as well and learn together may come in time. And it’s, interesting, Ryan brought up whether he realizes what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. And I think that’s something that often comes with time for a guide dog team. And for the dog. I think when we, we train a dog, we train them the behaviors that are required to become a guide dog. But once they’re matched with their handlers, I think they truly learn to be guide dogs, and learn what’s needed for that individual person. And it’s a process that can take at least a year for that relationship to really form and for the dog to kind of understand exactly what’s needed and modify their behavior to suit that.

Barbara Peacock  21:36

What do people who have a guide dog tell you Rob about what that dog in that partnership has meant to their life?

Rob Kramer  21:45

It’s really special, everyone talks about the special connection, and it’s something I hear about, but I can never truly experience because having a guide dog is so much different than a pet. I’m sure Ryan will talk to you about all the places he takes Joe. Joe is his constant companion. I have pet dogs, myself, I know a lot of people’s pets, but I don’t know many people who are able to live that kind of life with their dogs. It’s really special partnership that I couldn’t fully understand, although people talk to me about the connection. Trust is a big thing. The ability to trust the dog with your safety, I think just adds the relationship.

Barbara Peacock  22:30


Ryan Hooey  22:31

Those are the two big words, independence and trust. I get to go everywhere with my buddy, I’m never alone. You know, Joe learns about me and I’m learning about him. We’re a team. And that’s the best word to describe it because we just we take care of each other. He might need a little more taking care of than me sometimes. And then other times I might need a little more taken care of than him.  We go through it. We’re there thick and thin, rain or snow, dark or light – out there walking. He’s my car, right? He’s my buddy and I love all the places we get to go. I mean, if me, him, and Abby could go everywhere together, I would love that. It’s a really special thing. You know, you get noticed. There’s a lot of attention placed on you and the dog because he’s probably the only dog in Walmart. But it’s just really cool because it gives you a whole different perspective on traveling. It’s made me,not that I was ever scared, but it’s made me less frightened or less timid to travel. You got him, and he can do some really great things. And that goes back to almost like their first day of training. Rob probably knows what story I’m going to tell. You’re walking in downtown London, and there’s a bunch of chicken bones on the ground, and he didn’t even look at them. He just walked right by him. And I’m like, I think you broke my dog. Shouldn’t you be trying to eat those? And then I realized, no, that’s a good thing. He shouldn’t be looking at them. And you know what? Day one of training you get that trust and okay, let’s do this/ Where we’re going now.

Rob Kramer  24:04

We usually try and set people up for a nice, easy first walk. But I couldn’t believe we crossed the street. I could see the chicken bones.

Barbara Peacock  24:14

Wow, that is impressive. Ryan, you mentioned Abby, your daughter is two. Right?

Ryan Hooey  24:20

She is yes.

Barbara Peacock  24:21

Now when she gets older though, because this is one of the things you know the rest of us are sort of like, ‘Okay, guide dog I know I’m not supposed to, he’s got his harness on, I shouldn’t pet him.’ But other than that, a lot of us don’t know what else we should or shouldn’t do. When Abby gets older. Would she be able to travel with you when you have Joe with you?

Ryan Hooey  24:41

Oh, absolutely. So the reason I would I’m a little hesitant now to travel with her is because she’s so young. She doesn’t know the difference between in and out of vest. Don’t touch him in vest. Out of vest he’s my friend. She just sees Joe and it’s automatically thinks there’s my friend. I want to pet him. I want to hug him right they’re best buddies they get along so great. It’s a perfect match for her, I’m so glad that she gets to grow up alongside him that their bond is just going to get stronger and stronger. I think it kind of speaks to inclusivity and diversity because she’s going to be comfortable around guide dogs. She’s going to be able to teach all of her friends when she’s in school. And I think that’s really great, because I think she can be kind of like a trailblazer in her class. Hey, my dad gets to bring his dog everywhere kind of thing. So it’s a really a great story. They fight over each other’s toys. She wants to play with the guide dog toy, he wants to play with her toys. Yeah, she just they get along very, very well together. I just don’t think Joe realize how much bigger he is done her. Because he’s probably got 50 pounds on her.

Barbara Peacock  25:44

So what are the things the rest of us don’t know about being around someone who has lost their vision?

Ryan Hooey  25:52

We’re just people and we just want to be interacted with. That’s pretty much the big thing. You know, just say hello, that’s all you got to do. Right? Start the conversation. I don’t speak for the whole blindness community. But I mean, don’t adjust your language, right. Like, if you’re a ‘hey, did you see the game last night?’ don’t get all weird about it. That’s just the way the English language goes. And, you know, we just love that you’re talking to us like, there’s not really any secret to it. I think it’s just talk to us like you talk to your friends or family. And that’s right kind of thing.

Barbara Peacock  26:25


Rob Kramer  26:26

Yeah. And I think often people are very helpful and want to help out if they see someone who might be having some difficulty, or it might look like they’re having some difficulty. Some people with the best of intentions might step in. I’ve have seen people grab someone’s arm and try and help them and get them to safety. But that can be quite alarming for one and potentially insulting as well. I think if you want to help someone, first ask if they would like help. If they if they say yes, then ask how you could help because everyone’s going to want help in a in a different way.

Barbara Peacock  27:03

And that I think that would work not just for someone who’s blind that would work in lots of different situations, wouldn’t it?

Rob Kramer  27:10

I think as a general rule for life, just not assuming you know the answer to how someone needs help. Just ask what you can do for them if they want your help.

Barbara Peacock  27:22

Ryan, you mentioned when you take the harness off, that Joe is not working and that he knows when you take it off he’s not working anymore. What are his favorite things to do?

Ryan Hooey  27:32

He’s all about comfort, that’s for sure. He loves to stretch out on his bed, or he takes up the whole floor. He really likes that. And he’s got a couple of favorite toys. That’s for sure. And if you know, Ryan’s on a zoom call or work phone call, he really likes to grab the really noisy toy and play with it as loud as he can. Because he knows I’m not paying attention to him. So he’s, he’s got that personality. And that’s the one big miss I think. I thought when getting a guide dog I was getting essentially a robot dog, no personality. He’s going to do whatever I say and listen, but he’s got that personality. There’s some days where he doesn’t really want to work. He just wants to hang out or there’s hey, let’s do this, or no, I think you want me to go here. And he remembers like, we’ve done this five times. I think this is where you want to go. But no, not today Joe, I don’t want to go there today. He just he’s loves life. He’s got that innocence about him where he just goes through life. The littlest things mean so much to dogs in general, but especially to Joe.

Rob Kramer  28:34

Just kind of reminded me when you asked about the matching process, the personality is the other big part of it. So when I met Ryan, I could see he was clearly a dog person. And also a person with a great sense of humor, who savours life. I wanted to give him that dog that had the personality that was going to be a bit playful and make you smile. So it’s almost as important sometimes as their walking speed or as their guide work. Having, you know, 95% of the time Joe’s going to be off the job. So it’s important that relationship is there, and that bond is formed. We do look at individual preferences, what someone might like in a dog. So Ryan quite likes that affectionate, playful, humorous side of Joe but some of our handlers may want a dog that’s a bit more aloof, less engaged, less needy so we try to match for the practical components but then the personality side as well matters a lot.

Barbara Peacock  29:39

Yeah, some dogs are very serious, aren’t they? But whatever, sounds weird but they just like to stick to their job.

Ryan Hooey  29:46

I always tell people if you believe in reincarnation, I want to come back as a guide dog. I mean, what other job can you work for half an hour and then nap for seven? It’s an amazing job. Sign me up. Sure.

Barbara Peacock  29:57

Oh my goodness. Well, listen, I’ve been sitting here for this whole time wanting to say, Who’s a good boy. But I don’t say that you see. So I’m holding that till we’re all done. But he has been really good. He’s just like, flaked out on the floor there. But paying attention.

Ryan Hooey  30:16

Well, and that’s the thing, right? So even if you’re in a restaurant that people are like, Oh, my God, he’s not working. He’s just under the table. But no, he’s still got to be on alert. He’s not be licking the bottom of the table or scrounging for scraps. So it’s like, even though he’s just lying there, he’s still working right now.

Barbara Peacock  30:33

Rob, so we talked about what ordinary people can do when they’re around the guide dog. But I also wondered about fundraising and about paying for all of this as well. What are you finding with that?

Rob Kramer  30:47

Yeah, it’s great question. All of our all the money to pay for the guide dog program comes from donations and sponsors. We don’t have any government funding for guide dogs. So it just depends on the generosity of the public. We’ve also had a huge increase in demand for guide dogs since COVID started,

Barbara Peacock  31:08

Really? Why would that be?

Rob Kramer  31:11

So a lot of people previously have gone to the States to get a guide dog. When the border shut, that changed people’s options, so there’s a few guide dog schools in Canada, but we haven’t been set up previously to meet that demand because a portion of the people were getting their dogs from the States. So our demand actually went up 375% after COVID.

Barbara Peacock  31:36


Rob Kramer  31:37

We’re working really hard to build our team, hire staff, build capacity for dogs that are coming on campus and trying to meet that need to reduce the waiting times for applicants on our waiting list. We definitely need people to contribute even if it’s just a few dollars. Just to help out so we can get dogs like Joe to people like Ryan,

Barbara Peacock  32:05

How would people do that?

Rob Kramer  32:07

The best place to start is website which is sponsoredpuppies.ca

Barbara Peacock  32:14

Rob and Ryan, thank you both for talking to me today. This was just great talking to you. Lots of fun.

Rob Kramer  32:20

Thank you for having me on. It was a pleasure.

Barbara Peacock  32:23

Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan Hooey  32:24

Thank you so much. And Joe sends his regards as well from under the table.

Barbara Peacock  32:30

Ryan Hooey is the Program Lead for Come to Work with the CNIB in Ontario West and North, Rob Kramer is a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor with the CNIB. He worked with Ryan and with his dog Joe, and that site again where you can donate is sponsorpuppies.ca.

Also, thanks to our sponsors today Ann and Carl Fama for kindly sponsoring this episode.

My name is Barbara Peacock, you’ve been listening to Better Together with A  Life Worth Living. Know who you are, decide where you will go and choose a life worth living.