CNIB's new guide dog named after Halifax's Blind Mechanic
Published Monday, July 8, 2019 7:34PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 9, 2019 7:43AM ADT
One of the most well-known survivors of the Halifax Explosion passed away 10 years ago, but his legacy and contributions to blind or partially-sighted Nova Scotians lives on.
Eric, a four-month-old black Labrador with big shoes to fill, is one of the newest recruits from the CNIB’s guide dog-training program and his name is just as special as he is.
“He has a great temperament and a great name as well,” says Chris Wagner, Eric’s trainer.
He's named after the late Eric Davidson, also known as “The Blind Mechanic.”
In 1917, at two-and-a-half years old, Davidson lost his sight in the Halifax Explosion. He became a licensed automobile mechanic and raised a family in the north end of Halifax.
He was also one of the CNIB's first clients, which is why the non-profit wanted to name a guide dog after him.
“I was just, overwhelmed, delighted,” said Marilyn Davidson Elliott, Eric Davidson's daughter. “So now we have, Wee Eric, as I call him.”
Davidson Elliott says her father would have been honoured.
Training is an intense process for the pup and his human companions.
"As a puppy raiser, we meet with the actual trainer from Ottawa every few weeks,” said Wagner. “We have a guide that we have to follow for sit, stand. The dog is trained to use the bathroom on command.”
Eric came from Brisbane, Australia, with another future guide dog -- his sister, Hope.
For future guide dogs, like Hope and Eric, their training typically starts around 10 weeks old. For a year, they'll focus on obedience and socialization, and then for a six-month period, they go through intensive training.
"We take the dogs everywhere, anywhere a guide dog would go,” said Catherine Kieran, a spokeswoman and puppy raiser for the CNIB. "That's where we're taking these puppies so that they can help build confidence.”
Wagner says Eric’s training is going well.
“(He’s) very keen, always paying attention, very alert to his surroundings,” said Wagner. “But he takes in so much, it actually tires him out, he's so smart.”
Said Kieran: “Eric is darling; he's got a little feisty side.”
The feisty side comes out when the vest is off.
If training goes well, the hope is Eric will be matched with a Canadian who's blind or partially sighted.
If not, he could become an ambassador dog or a buddy dog for a child with sight loss.
As for graduation day, Davidson Elliott has her hopes.
“I would hope that one day, Eric will be matched up with someone in Halifax, so he can guide that person through Halifax, along the streets my father walked for so many years,” she said.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Amanda Debison.