Immersion in a guide dog training center for the blind

On the occasion of the guide dog festival and the open day, 20 minutes was able to visit the center of Nice. This morning is a bit special for Catherine. She will remember for the first time, during a “meal of delivery”, the foster family who learned cleanliness, obedience and socialization to Pop, her future dog guide.

“My eyesight has started to really show up in the past two years,” says the 63-year-old. I then asked the association Les Chiens Guides d’blind de Provence Côte d’Azur Corse for help in order to be more independent, to no longer be afraid to leave my home and to be able to move confidence in the street. »

“My life will completely change”

Since the creation of this education center in 1966, whose headquarters are in Nice, more than 635 dogs have been given free of charge to people with visual impairments. For Pop, a sand-colored Labrador, and Catherine, “it was love at first sight”. “I was really waiting for her, I only thought of her since I met her in July. My life will completely change, ”she sums up, very moved.

Philippe and Pascale, the famous host family, also have wet eyes. “It’s very difficult to part with it,” they simply blurt out, looking at the dog near her new mistress. They took her into their home when she was only two months old.

Three months later, Pop made “his first return to school” and sent a week a month to the education center to get used to public places. “At first, the dogs stay with the family a lot because the goal is to have a great pet, a kind of cartoon dog, image Audrey, educator at the Nice center for six years. Guide dogs are companion dogs 80% of their time, they “work” only for travel. »

The dog must pass his baccalaureate first

For Catherine, originally from Haute-Savoie and recently settled in the Var, it is necessary to relearn everything with Pop, in particular, “the orders”. “Right, left, forward”, for an hour, accompanied by Julia, another educator, the three of them worked on trips in town by crossing tram tracks, bypassing obstacles.

“For this team [comprendre le chien et la personne souffrant de déficience visuelle], there has been a merger since the beginning, exclaims the educator. I can’t really describe it, it’s not palpable but it was directly felt”. But each dog has its characteristics that will suit a beneficiary. “The person who runs marathons and the one who is retired will not have the same travel needs”, specifies the professional.

It is around the age of two, after obtaining a “bac”, that the dogs are given to the beneficiaries. Their career will be eight to ten years maximum before retiring. At that time, they are adopted, most often by the foster family. The visually impaired or blind person has another dog given to them.

Do not pet guide dogs without asking

As every year, the last weekend of September is devoted to open days for the thirteen “schools” of the association, on the occasion of “the festival of guide dogs”. In the region, it will be at the delegation of Lançon, in the Bouches-du-Rhône. A way for educators to make their profession known to the “general public”. Starting with the difference with a training center: “We talk about a school and an education center because the dog must also be able to disobey us if he has analyzed a danger”, underlines Audrey.

“If you meet a team, you have to call out the person who is at the end of the leash to find out if it’s ok to pet the dog, points out Julia. He may be in full labor, so it’s a matter of security. A noise, a distraction by a papouille, that can be dangerous. Would you throw a ball at a bus driver? It’s the same, the dog is the means of transport for a person with visual impairment. » And Audrey completes : « We also know that the dog is too beautiful but we must avoid making the person invisible. And on the other hand, we also see that it helps break the clichés. People will not necessarily realize right away that the person has a visual impairment and the link will be created more easily than with a cane which, with the gesture that accompanies it, hunts what surrounds it . The whole thing is to think that we are in front of a team. »

She concludes: “And for blind or visually impaired people, know that you cannot be refused access to a public place with your guide dog. But also remember that he is neither a GPS nor a superhero, even after years of living together, keep talking to him. »

Leave a Comment