Puppies playing in the park

This week, I had my first free run!

It was a big surprise when I arrived at the dog park and saw my brother Bronson, sister Beth, and another fellow guide dog puppy, Debbie. Everyone’s gotten so big since I last saw them. Although they look different, I instantly recognised them.

Our Puppy Development Trainer, Rochelle talked to us about what perfect behaviour looks like before letting us have a proper play. I was more interested in catching up with Bronson but I took in some of what she had to say.

I learnt a new trick while I was frolicking freely with my friends. If I returned back to my puppy walker when she blew a whistle I got a treat! Although it was hard to focus on the whistle with so much going on, I’m not one to forget when treats are being distributed.

Back in the office this week I had to take drastic measures and get a security gate installed. With my blog bringing attention to my whereabouts in Awhina house the comms office has had an increase in foot traffic. With the puppy gate on the door, I control the flow of visitors by sitting right in front of the entrance.

Guide dog puppy Brooke behind the puppy gate
Guide dog puppy Brooke behind the puppy gate in the comms office

Image shows Sharon Jefferies, employment consultant, in front of a leafy plant.

Meet Sharon Jefferies, Employment Consultant based in Hamilton.

Sharon has been working at the Blind Foundation for three years now, covering a wide variety of responsibilities over that time.

Sharon’s job covers career development including providing assessment tools, CV, and cover letter support, mock interview tips, networking and job search strategies.

Sharon also supports clients on a range of challenges in their workplace including advocacy, disability rights, restructuring and job support processing for Workbridge.

In her role as Employment Consultant Sharon also works with BLENNZ on Tertiary Planning workshops and provides study and training support for clients in Waikato, New Plymouth, and Bay of Plenty regions.

Sharon has held many leadership positions in numerous committees and projects. She previously ran her own small company in career setting with staff, held and still holds several head coach roles, and led and developed the careers team at the University of Waikato.

Bringing this experience with her to the Blind Foundation, Sharon has worked on passing these leadership skills to clients. At January’s Taupo Summer camp Sharon held a session for the young leaders focused on the qualities of a great leader and how to develop those skills over the week.

Sharon loves being able to see clients put their leadership skills into action, “my favorite part is seeing clients motivating other members to achieve; mentoring and supporting each other and gaining confidence in communicating and self-advocating.”

When Sharon isn’t busy making a difference for clients she enjoys being involved with horses and sports, “I love X-country, jumping and dressage, I coach at pony club and for Riding for the Disabled and also mountain bike, run and go to the gym.”

Image shows the happy human and canine participants ready to take on the Tarawera trail.

In December, 10 courageous Blind Foundation clients, one volunteer, three Blind Foundation staff, and superstar guide dogs Dendi, took on the challenge of hiking through some of the best bush tracks New Zealand has to offer.

This was the first time a guide dog had been taken on the Tarawera Trail much to the delight of the staff at Totally Tarawea.

Dendi was an amazing support through all different terrains. They were a big part of the team and created awareness for everyone else around.

Dendi joined participants as they tramped 11.5km through The Redwoods-Whakarewarewa Forrest, 15.5kms on the Tarawera Trail and as they went, they discovered some of the town’s famous geothermal activity.

Recreation and community advisor, Latesha Sharp, on behalf of all participants would like to thank Totally Tarawera staff who played a big role in the success of the tramp.  Their team really enhanced the experience through all their support on the journey getting everyone to the start of the walk. They provided a fantastic history talk about the area, as well as transport via a water taxi ride to the trails and helped with access on and off the boat.

The tramp gave all participants a sense of achievement, everyone who participated was pushed to their physical limits and had a thoroughly good time doing it.

Image shows the participants at the annual Taupo summer camp outdoors amongst trees

In January, 22 Blind Foundation clients, between 8-14 years of age, attended the week-long annual Taupo Summer Camp. Nine young adult Blind Foundation clients supported the group as mentors and junior leaders.

The annual Taupo camp is filled with fun and exciting activities in a great location; it is also a huge opportunity for growth.

It can be intimidating going to a large camp without a familiar support system, especially as it was some Blind Foundation clients’ first time away from home. However, with the help of the leaders, any inhibitions didn’t last long as the kids’ skills, confidence and independence grew exponentially.

The mentors and junior leaders had once attended the Camp as participants themselves.  They have since transitioned to leadership positions so they that can help the younger clients have the same great experience they had.

The nine young leaders who attended the Camp were essential to its success as they ensured that campers were doing the right things, were safe and had fun.

Hana Bainbridge is one leader who attended this year. It was through getting involved in the Leadership Camp, held by the Blind Foundation every couple of years, that Hana made the transition from participant to leader.

“My favourite part of being a leader was getting to see the campers enjoying the camp and getting to catch up with the other leaders.  Being at the camp provided a sense of belonging,” said Hana.

The leadership skills that Hana has learnt through the Blind Foundation have helped her in other aspects of her life, “being a leader in the Taupo Summer Camp helped mebecome a school leader in my last year of high school.”

Having the opportunity to attend as leaders keeps Blind Foundation clients involved after they are too old to attend as participants. Their knowledge and experience of the camps makes them experts on the event and ensures all involved have a great time.

The Camp was enjoyed by all who attended with some already looking forward to next year.

Image is a drawing of an optometrist checking a person's eyesight in front of a Snellen eye chart.

It is often hard to notice subtle changes in your eye health, the advice given here will help you feel confident about spotting the signs for possible sight loss.

A person may have an undiagnosed sight condition if they present any of the following characteristics:

  1. Difficulty with reading or participating in hobbies.
  2. Problems with distance tasks such as seeing people, street signs or bus numbers.
  3. Difficulty driving at night.
  4. Increase in knocks to the body, trips or falls.
  5. Anxious when negotiating, or missing steps, kerbs or stairs.
  6. Difficulties in navigating in unfamiliar places.
  7. Adopting unusual head positioning or holding things up close to their eyes.
  8. Persistently cleaning glasses or difficulty seeing well with them.
  9. Hesitancy in sunlight, bright light, or low light.
  10. Physical changes in the appearance of the eye such as redness, swelling or discharge.

It is recommended that most people should have eye tests every two years unless advised otherwise by an optometrist. For more information from a New Zealand agency, visit the Ministry of Health website.

Note: Image sourced from RNIB.

Brooke in her red coat

Being the socialable, well-mannered puppy that I am I have been visiting a range of new places and meeting many new faces.

With my red coat on I can go in to cafes and restaurants along with my puppy walker. As the walk to the location can be tiring, so much to smell, hear and see, I enjoy a snooze by the table until it is time for us to leave again.

People love seeing me in my red coat and I am often the subject of photos even if I am just sitting still. I don’t mind though; it all comes with the territory when you are this cute. I wonder if I’ll be as famous as Norah?

Hazel sitting on the law

Hazel is so well behaved, we even managed to get a picture of her sitting with one of the puppy walker’s chooks! She has learnt to leave the hens alone – what a good girl.

While some of her brothers are already in training, Hazel may be assessed for breeding because she is alert, friendly and does all the right things. She truly is a star.

Hazel the black lab with a chicken
Hazel sitting on the lawn with her puppy walkers pet chicken
Brooke napping in the comms office

I am happy to report that over the last week my listening skills have had significant improvement. I am now able to detect the sound of my food being prepared from rooms away. I can also hear when someone is trying to sneak away while I take a nap, no fun is to be had without me!

I don’t mean to brag but my “loose leash walking” is also becoming pretty impressive. I mean business in my red coat as I dawdle with purpose.

I haven’t had a chance to make it into the office this week, with this hot weather I’m working overtime at home to fit in all the necessary naps in cool places.

I’ll be back in on Monday to continue my strenuous work in the Comms office, you might even get a photo of me awake…

Shiloh and her poodle pups

Shilo’s third litter was born last November and they’re oh so cute. We don’t breed poodles very often, so it’s pretty special – plus, these adorable pups look a little like sheep or stuffed toys for the first 7 weeks! Naw.

These gorgeous pups are all pure white poodles, two boys and three girls. Everyone who sees them at the breeding centre can’t believe how sweet and intelligent they are already.

Now they’re a bit bigger, they’re off to their puppy walkers and we look forward to seeing them succeed as guide dogs just like their mum, Shilo.

poodle puppies playing together
poodle puppy looking at his mum
poodle puppy with his toy


Check out their red coat photos on our Facebook page!



Brooke sleeping in the office

This week after work, when I say work I mean snoozing and meeting people and guide dogs in the office, I had my first visit to the beach.

Being as cute as I am as a three-month old puppy, I had no trouble getting a lot of attention. Even though I was ‘off-duty’, everyone wanted a photo and a cuddle and I was more than happy to oblige. Going out to new places and meeting new people is pawsome.

Now although meeting people is always fun, it’s not as much fun as meeting other dogs. I don’t care how big or little they are, or whether they look like me or not, I love making new friends. It was all very exciting and I got plenty of exercise playing and jumping around. Apparently I need to work on my “listening skills”, and then I can maybe play freely with new pals.

I’ll let you know how my listening skills go next week.