Vision Australia has put a call out for more Seeing Eye Dogs volunteer carers after the birth of a large number of puppies at the Melbourne headquarters.
Carers provide homes to the pups from when they are about eight weeks old until 12 to 15 months, helping them socialise, explore the world and learn skills.
The pups then return to Melbourne for formal training in preparation for working life helping people who are blind or have low vision.
Seeing Eye Dogs provides materials and support such as food, a lead, collar, bed, bowl, veterinary care, a manual and puppy training support to cover most of the costs involved.
Puppy carers Yvette Gollmer, who has black Labrador Clyde, and Michelle Ward, who has white Labrador Gloria, came on board the program as a way of giving back.
“For us to give a year of our time and hopefully really help someone is really rewarding for us,” Ms Gollmer said.
The women hoped to build a community of carers in Ballarat, where they could train the puppies and see them grow together.
“It’s going to be really hard (to let go),” Ms Gollmer said.
“But we’re lucky, we get to find out if he (Clyde) has passed the program, we get to meet the person that he is matched with and we know he is going off to a good home and is going to have a good life.”
Ms Ward said it was important to keep the bigger picture in perspective.
“Even though you fall in love with the puppies, you do know at the end there is a reason why you do it,” she said.
Ash Finn, who has had no vision since birth, was paired with working dog Quinny in April last year.
Their relationship has taken time to build and strengthen, as they have had to learn to read each other and work together.
But Ms Finn said Quinny always provided a good ice breaker when out and about in the community.
“He allows me a lot more freedom, it’s a lot easier to get around instead of having to use a cane,” she said.
“I can interact in town a lot more easily... it takes me half as long as it would by cane to get down the street and it’s great working as a team (with Quinny), and I love having the company as well as the workmanship.”
Vision Australia is hosting an information night on Monday, November 27. The event will be held at the Ballarat office at 1300 Howitt Street, Wendouree, from 6pm to 7pm.