The dog days of COVID-19 has meant a litter of future guide dogs is being trained in Australia before starting working life in Canada.
Four labrador puppies are set to spend the entire year in Melbourne learning to become qualified dog guides on the other side of the world.
At Vision Australia’s Seeing Eye Dogs site in Kensington, Rex, Harley, Bridget and Oscar came together for the first time on Wednesday to be put through their puppy paces.
The cross-continent collaboration is the brainchild of CNIB Guide Dogs, which raise, train and match dogs with blind and visually-impaired Canadians and often acquire puppies from an Australian breeder.
With the coronavirus pandemic interrupting international transport links, the charity was forced to think outside the box to find a solution.
“Vision Australia and CNIB have had a longstanding relationship,” CNIB president Diane Bergeron said.
“We contacted them and asked if their puppy carers could raise our future CNIB Guide Dogs until travel restrictions are lifted and they said ‘absolutely’.”
Jane Bradley, Seeing Eye Dogs’ manager of puppy development, said the team was happy to help.
“There’s a strong tradition of collaboration in the international dog guide fraternity,” she said.
“We’re excited to work even closer with CNIB Guide Dogs and also create history.”
The Canada-bound puppies will remain in their carers’ homes until early 2022 or air travel allows them to make the journey abroad.