Science labs are a typical part of high school life, but at Hamilton District Christian High (HDCH) in Ancaster, Ontario, are welcoming labs of another variety. Archer and Xella (pronounced “ZELL-a”), trainees in the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides program, are being fostered by HDCH families. As part of their training, they'll be attending classes.
Natasha Luth, grade 12 (pictured right), and Grace Burnip, grade 9 (pictured above), are the handlers of Xella and Archer respectively. Along with their families, they teach the puppies basic manners and obedience and make sure they are well-socialized by being introduced to as many people, places, objects, and situations as is possible: public transportation, malls, workplaces, and schools. Socializing the dogs in this way helps prepare them for settings they might encounter in their future work.
Once Archer and Xella are 12–14 months old, they will be screened for physical soundness and temperament and will enter the official dog guide training program. The Lions Foundation of Canada’s mission is to assist Canadians with a medical or physical disability by providing them dog guides at no cost.
Grace believes the greatest benefit of having the dogs at HDCH is “the community learning about what it is like to raise a future dog guide. They can watch them grow and learn new skills.”