For years now, Kuyper has participated in the Positive Paws Program in partnership with Guide Dogs NSW. The program usually involves a small group of high school students making weekly trips to the Guide Dogs training facilities in Glossodia where they get to work with puppies and Guide-Dogs-in-training. Our students play an important role in preparing these dogs for their future work.
Lockdown meant that the program could not go ahead in its usual format; however, the team at Guide Dogs worked hard last term to shift the program online. A small group of students from Years 7 and 8 volunteered to pilot the Positive Paws: Train Your Dog@Home Program. Rather than working with the Guide Dogs in Glossodia, these students and their dogs joined an online training session each Friday morning. Bella & Bessy, Charlize & Zane, Kayne & Storm, Ruben & Peanut, Rosie & Jonny, and Josh B & Micah worked together to learn new skills which revealed the importance of patience, persistence and obedience. We laughed together at some of the silly things the pooches did, groaned together when they were THIS CLOSE to performing the trick, and cheered together when all the practice paid off and one of the dogs could show what they had learned.
My students will attest to my love of dogs – pets were often invited along to our Google Meets during School@Home – but I was surprised to find that it was the theory component of the program that had the greatest impact on me. We learnt about some of the struggles faced by people with vision impairment. It had never occurred to me that something as simple as where people place their bins on bin day can significantly impact someone’s ability to navigate their neighbourhood safely and independently. Have you ever thought about how challenging it would be to find your way into a building you’ve never visited before when you can’t even see the front door? There are so many things that I take for granted in my life.
This realisation gave me a better understanding of the value of a Guide Dog. These dogs go through rigorous training so that their owners will be able to trust them with their lives. Everyday, Guide Dogs lead their owners across traffic-filled roads, up and down stairs, and around countless obstacles. Being in any of these situations without the ability to see something that might cause you harm would be enough to paralyse anyone with fear.
How many of us have been paralysed by fear of the unknown? There are so many things that we can worry about; our health, the environment, our job, finances, children, grades, elderly parents… The list is endless.
Thankfully, God does not expect us to journey through life alone. Those of us who believe are called children of God (John 1:12) and have received the Holy Spirit in our hearts (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). God will never leave us nor forsake us, and He promises that we will seek Him and find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:11, 13). He has given us His Word so that we can know Him more. The more we know of God and the better we know Him, the easier it is for us to trust Him and let Him guide our steps. As the Christmas season approaches, may we seek after God, spend time reading our Bibles, and learn to trust the One who will never lead us astray.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,Psalm 119:05
a light on my path.