The story of how Rick Hoskin’s guide dog, Banner, acquired his name, is quite remarkable. The story goes back about 40 years, when a woman named Sandra Hewitt, moved back to New Zealand from the UK and brought her beloved black Labrador, Banner, with her. Sandra never had any children, and absolutely loved dogs. Banner lived a long and happy life.

Later Sandra and her sister, Shelley Murphy, both became volunteer puppy raisers for the Blind Foundation guide dogs. Shelley was the puppy raiser of Kit, who at the time was matched with Laura Eitjes, our Work Flow Coordinator. This was Laura’s first guide dog, but unfortunately he was withdrawn after, a few months. This led to Shelley and her husband, Kevin Murphy, and their two teenage boys, adopting Kit. Kit was part of their family for 17 years.

Later, Sandra became the puppy raiser of Tamsin and then Fisher. Fisher had an incredible personality and was well into his puppy walking training.

Sadly in late 2014, Sandra died of a heart attack at the age of 54. She was driving her car with Fisher in it, when it happened, and Fisher survived the accident. Fisher later had a career change and now works for Epilepsy NZ.

A couple of months later, Shelley and Kevin contacted Theresa Liebenberg, one of our Relationship Managers in the Fundraising team, to discuss the potential sponsorship of a dog. Shelley inherited money from her late sister, and although nothing was mentioned in Sandra’s will, they knew she wanted to sponsor a dog. So they honoured that and named Banner in memory of Sandra (and the late Banner). Theresa said: “They are a very humble and wonderful couple.”

We have volunteer puppy raisers nationwide, so Banner could have been placed anywhere in New Zealand. Unbelievably, he was placed with a puppy raiser in Wattle Downs, who lived right next to Shelley and Kevin’s son. For the duration that Banner was with the puppy raiser, Shelley and Kevin received updates on Banner through their son. They were also lucky enough to actually witness him out walking, as well as see him playing with his family.

Banner was then matched with Rick Hoskin, our Board Chair, in May 2017. Theresa said: “I think this is such an amazing story that involves so many facets of Blind Foundation guide dogs.”