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Guide dog gives new lease on life
Iqaluit resident regained mobility and freedom six months ago

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Friday, May 24, 2013

Six months after becoming Nunavut's first recipient of a guide dog, Noah Papatsie enjoys having his independence and balance back.

NNSL photo/graphic

Noah Papatsie enjoys a lot more freedom and independence thanks to his guide dog, Xeno, a two-year-old Labrador retriever provided by the Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind. - photo courtesy of Noah Papatsie

The Iqaluit resident and board member of the Nunavummi Disabilities Makinnasuaqtiit Society (NDMS) has benefited from the company of his friend Xeno, a two-year-old Labrador retriever, since mid-December.

"It's been great since then. I used to always use a cane to feel where things were but now I haven't used one since getting him," he said.

Papatsie, who lost his sight several years ago following an accident, had been on the waiting list for a guide dog for almost four years. In the meantime, he learned how to read braille and did computer training.

One day, he got a call from Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind and it changed his life.

"I had completed an application form online and waited a really long time before they finally called," he said.

The pair spent the month of November training together in Ottawa, where they went through a variety of everyday activities and exercises.

Because of Nunavut's particular climate, Papatsie needed a special dog, one that could handle the terrain and weather in the territory.

"I was really impressed with what he could do. He was trained in the greater Toronto area so he can handle gravel, pavement, ice," he said.

"We bonded with each other 24/7. He listens really well, he's great with my children, he understands the commands I give him really well and he never barks."

The dog's trainer from the Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind even made a trip to Iqaluit in January to make sure the adjustment went well for both Papatsie and Xeno.

Xeno is still owned by the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind and will be retired once he reaches 10 years old.

On May 26 Papatsie took part in the Walk-Wag-n'-Roll event, organized by the Iqaluit Humane Society and the NDMS. The annual event was held to raise awareness for the Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind, a cause close to Papatsie's heart.

Wendy Ireland, executive director at NDMS, said she wasn't sure whether any more people from Nunavut were on the waiting list for a guide dog, but she knows that it's important to get the word out for people who might not know the service is accessible.

"I think because there haven't been very many guide dogs here, the story needs to be told and shared with the right people, as they may be in the same position themselves," she said.

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