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ICYMI: One last walk for guide dogs for Fergus family

Larry and Hilda Wainwright, with guide dog Otis, have raised over $84,000 for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides since organizing the walk in Maryhill
Larry and Hilda Wainwright with vision dog Otis at their home in Fergus.
Hilda and Larry Wainwright with Otis at a past Maryhill Walk for Dog Guides. Submitted

This article was previously published on EloraFergusToday.

FERGUS – Larry Wainwright never thought he’d get a guide dog despite becoming legally blind in the 1970s. 

Eventually in 2014 however, he got standard poodle Otis to assist him as a vision dog. Together Otis, Larry and his wife Hilda have raised over $84,000 in pledges for the Maryhill Walk for Dog Guides which supports the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. 

“Not too bad for a couple of 80-plus-year-olds and an aging dog missing teeth,” Larry said. 

Larry and Hilda at 85 and 86 years old and Otis a senior dog at 12. They decided this year will be their last time organizing the Maryhill fundraiser walk

“They did one last year in Maryhill and I was having enough difficulty then … I’m starting to realize that I’m old, old and mouldy I guess,” Larry joked in an interview at his Fergus home.

The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides launched in 1983 and offers seven different training programs: vision, hearing, autism assistance, seizure response, service, facility support and diabetes alert.

“They’ve graduated well over 3,500 dogs in this time and I believe there’s around 1,400 of us right across Canada that are being serviced by a dog guide,” Larry said. 

Despite thinking he’d never get a guide dog, Larry said he’s built a terrific bond with Otis who helped him be a little more independent. 

“He’s not able to do as much right now as he did at the beginning,” Hilda pointed out, noting Larry is not as mobile as he used to be.

He’s been using a walker since he had a bad fall about a year ago which required surgery. This was a major factor that led to the decision to make this their last official walk but they still see the importance of fundraising.

Training one dog costs $35,000, Larry said and there is no government support for the program but there is no cost to the client. 

Dogs like Otis have helped a lot of people, Larry said, pointing out examples of a guide dog helping the parents of an eight-year-old child with autism who wandered or alerting the parents of a diabetic child to a medical emergency. 

“It makes you realize what it’s all about,” Larry said. 

No date or location has been set for the Maryhill walk but walks take place across the country usually in May.

Although Larry, Otis and Hilda will no longer be walking or fundraising specifically for this, they are currently working on a way for people to support guide dogs through the three of them.

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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