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This article was published 25/5/2019 (719 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Jocelynn Johnson was seven, she got meningitis and lost her hearing.
Navigating the world was a challenge, the 39-year-old provincial civil servant says.
In March 2010, Johnson travelled to Oakville, Ont., to be paired up at Dog Guides, a hearing guide dog training centre sponsored by the Lions Foundation Canada. After nearly nine years, Lulu the Labrador is ready to retire and Johnson will soon need a new dog.
On Sunday, the foundation that sponsors training for dozens of guide dogs, for Canadians who have hearing and sight loss, will hold its annual fundraiser, Pet Valu Walk for Dog Guides. Johnson was tapped to talk and was happy to answer to questions submitted through a publicity firm for the walk.
The Lions program supplies dozens of trained guide dogs to those in need, free of charge. Raising and training the dogs costs about $25,000 per animal and Lions depends on the annual fundraiser. Over the years, the charity has raised $17 million.
It wasn’t until a fire broke out while Johnson was in university that she realized she might need help. She did not hear the smoke alarms nor see other students evacuating the University of Winnipeg building where she was studying.
"A fireman actually came up to me, tapped me on the shoulder and told me there was a fire. He was doing checks to ensure everyone was out and escorted me through an emergency exit nearby," Johnson said by email.
"While this was a reason I started thinking about it, I wasn’t in the right place to get a service dog at that point. In fact, this (fire) was several years before I did get one. The culminating event that caused me to file the application was when my husband was working nights and I was home alone," she said.
"One of my cats was acting bizarrely, puffing up, hissing and generally freaking out and I got out of bed to see what was going on. I ended up catching two men trying to break in (through) my kitchen door. When I turned on the lights, they fled, but if my cat hadn’t freaked out, they likely would have broken into the house.
"It did take a few years after that to get Lulu as the process can be quite lengthy, but I did sleep a lot better once I got her."
Lulu alerts Johnson to everyday sounds, including fire alarms, doorbells, phones, alarm clocks and Johnson’s work colleagues calling for her.
Approximately 6.2 million Canadians are limited due to a disability of some kind, including hearing loss.
More information about the walk for guide dogs can be found at the websites for Pet Valu stores or through www.walkfordogs.com.