This event has been postponed until further notice due to COVID-19 concerns.
CANMORE – Hosting a pawsome party designed to celebrate the bark side, Wendy Everett is using her 50th birthday bash as an opportunity to fundraise for the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.
“I wanted to do something big because it’s kind of a big milestone,” Everett said. “It was a way to have fun but give back as well— it’s bringing together all your friends but also raising money for something you’re really passionate about.”
Everett has been with her service dog Hedi for three years.
Her first service dog was a seizure response dog who would help her, but the more they worked together the fewer seizures she had. When her trusty partner passed on Everett did no initially qualify for a seizure response dog.
However, in that time she lost her leg and was qualified for a mobility service dog.
“If I have to use a wheelchair for any reason then the dog helps me open doors, fetch dropped items, press buttons at the traffic lights,” Everett said. “The things they can do is pretty endless.”
Her canine partner Hedi plays an important role as well in emotionally supporting Everett.
“As much as she does a lot for me, I think the companionship has really helped lower any anxiety I have,” Everett said, explaining that Hedi can tell when she has had a tough day and checks in laying on her lap until she feels better. “You can’t beat a snuggle in bed with your dog.”
Sandy Lecour and her dog guide Keenan will be helping Everett with her birthday paw-ty fundraiser.
Lecour knows first-hand the important role dog guides play in their partner's lives.
Lecour has been blind since she was ten years old and experienced further vision loss about ten years ago.
“It limited my mobility, made my world a little smaller and so I decided to get a dog guide so I could stay more in my community,” Lecour said.
Lecour’s dog Keenan leads her around taking her to areas like the pool, her choir practice, shopping and more.
“I would not be walking around town without him,” Lecour said. “For a dog who guides a blind person the number one priority is guiding.”
While companionship is an important aspect of their relationship, she said, his ability to lead her has ensured that she can be a part of the community.
“My dog keeps me in my community which gives me what I need,” Lecour said.
Everett's birthday fundraiser is not Lecour’s first time hosting an event to raise money for Canada Dog Guides.
Lecour celebrated the retirement of Lego her previous guide dog last year and raised the ruff to fundraise for the organization. Lego has a ball of a time, she said. She added that Lego is still with the family enjoying long days relaxing on the couch.
“He’s really soaking it up,” Everett said with a laugh.
These fundraisers are important Lecour said because they serve a dual-purpose – helping raise money to support service dogs while educating the public.
People are becoming more aware of the important role service dogs play in their partner’s life, Everett said, but education remains vital.
For those attending the event, Lecour said one of the most important rules to know is that service dogs should not be touched or talked to when they are in the harness.
“I think that is the biggest challenge that we have,” Everett said.
When they’re in their gear their dogs are working hard she said, explaining when the harness comes off it’s time to relax and spend time as a pet.
“It’s the handler's safety which they are working to promote,” Lecour said. “They’re working dogs, they’re not pets.”
It takes time to apply and qualify for a guide dog, Everett said, explaining that the first step is applying to the foundation. A trainer is then sent to your home to see what your needs are in a canine partner and ensure the home is the right fit.
Everett said she waited for 12-months for her first dog and five months for her second dog and Lecour waited about a year for her dog.
The biggest step that can help people get the service dogs and improve their quality of life is fundraising, Everett said.
DogGuides receive no government funding, she said, and because of this, the organization relies exclusively on public donations and sponsorships.
It costs $25,000 to train a dog guide, Everett said, so every penny raised makes a difference.
Their goal is to raise as much money as possible at the event, Everett said, adding that they hope to raise around $5,000.
“It’s about having fun and raising money,” Everett said.
Everett is a dog and cat groomer and will be using her craft to raise money for dog guides as well. For the month of March, she will be doing nail clippings by donation and half the sales of her dog grooming will go to Canada Dog Guides.
Everett’s 50th birthday celebration and fundraiser takes place at the Canmore Golf and Curling club next Friday (March 13). The festivities begin at 8 p.m. and include a performance from The Electric Squirrels and the Men of the Mountains choir.
Tickets are $25 and available from Rusticana or eventbrite.com
All proceeds raised will go towards The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.