Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

Disabled Canadians struggle to be paired with service animals amid pandemic

If the past three months without a service dog have been a challenge for Ann Moxley, the next year seems poised to be a struggle.

The Victoria resident, who lives with physical disabilities, used to rely on her faithful companion Gretzky for a variety of household tasks. She fondly recalls times when Gretzky would pick up a wallet that slipped from her pocket or retrieve a toque and mittens blown into the road by a gust of wind.

But Moxley has been without his support since his death from a rare liver condition in April. And since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused Canada’s service dog training schools to halt or suspend their programs, she isn’t scheduled to meet his successor until at least July 2021.

“It’s hard, it’s all I can do to exist,” Moxley said in an interview. “It’s incredibly lonely.”

Moxley plans to get her new companion from Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, a school based in Oakville, Ont., that trains service animals to support people with a range of physical and sensory disabilities.

Chief Executive Officer Beverly Crandell said COVID-19 has forced the school to cancel in-person training classes, adding more names to an already-lengthy waiting list of people eager for service dog support.

She said while dogs have been successfully placed in foster homes while classes are on-hold, addressing the needs of their future human partners has proven much more complex.

“Clients are a different story,” Crandell said. “… They have been put on hold.”

Figures provided by the school estimate approximately 80 disabled Canadians have had their training deferred due to the pandemic. Officials said the school is offering virtual support to its existing clients and looks forward to the day when it can “create more life-changing matches for people with disabilities.”

Pandemic-related setbacks also abound at Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, an Ottawa-area training facility that cancelled all in-person classes at the end of March when public health-related lockdowns took effect across the country.

Manager of Development Alex Ivic said the school has had to explore alternatives to replace the residential model at the heart of its usual training program. Local clients, for instance, began receiving home-based training in May.

Ivic said the campus reopened to students last month, though only one person at a time is allowed to occupy the residence.

“The pandemic gave us new challenges,” Ivic said. “We had to push everything back and the wait times for those waiting for a dog are variable.”

Moxley anticipates additional struggles when she’s finally cleared to train with a new dog, saying COVID-19-related restrictions make the prospect of travelling from Victoria to Oakville daunting and possibly risky.

Canada’s service animal training schools don’t generally receive government support, relying instead on charitable donations to stay afloat. Both the Lions school and Canadian Guide Dogs for the blind said the financial squeeze caused by the pandemic adds another dimension to their struggles to keep going during a time of upheaval.

But Ivic, for one, remains optimistic, saying schools are committed to matching successful service dog teams while preserving the health of all concerned.

“I hope things will go back to normal one day to train multiple clients at once,” he said. ”I know there will be changes in our protocols to keep people safe,” Ivic said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2020.

Osobe Waberi, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Image/ Metro Creative Connection
County of Wetaskiwin responds to Alberta Energy Regulator’s decision on Directive 067.

On April 7, 2021 the Alberta Energy Regular (AER) announced a new edition of Directive 067.

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It’s not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he’d been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

Police are still looking for suspects, and have called in their forensics experts to help

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

Doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine in a freezer trailer, to be transported to Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Pfizer to increase vaccine deliveries in Canada as Moderna supply slashed

Moderna plans to ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million

Most Read