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Flanders wearing his Future CNIB Guide Dog vest and sitting amongst autumn leaves; Puppy Raiser Claire sitting on a bench in a gazebo with Flanders lying under her looking up

Raising Flanders

In the search of a volunteer opportunity, Claire Bernier, a retired elementary school teacher, found an adorable adventure. 

“My family loves dogs and I have always been interested in guide dogs and how they are trained,” explains Claire. 

So, when Claire’s friend, a CNIB employee, recommended puppy raising for CNIB, Claire knew this would be an experience she could not pass up. 

In Janurary 2020, Claire met Flanders, a golden-retriever puppy named in honour of his Remembrance Day birthday.

“Flanders is confident, loveable, smart, and just a little bit goofy. A friend nicknamed him Fearless Flanders,” says Claire. 

Fearless, indeed. Under Claire’s care, Flanders was eager to learn new skills and master his puppy training. During their time together, Claire connected with other puppy raisers, and had the coaching and encouragement of puppy raising supervisor. 

“The support provided by the puppy raising supervisor was outstanding. She had a load of strategies for us to try,” Claire recalls. This helped Claire and Flanders learn a lot about puppy training and strengthen their bond. 

Claire and Flanders enjoyed many outings together, such as hiking on trails and swimming. From  cottage life to the city life and public transit, Flanders loved his adventures with Claire. 

“Fearless Flanders takes everything in stride. He is so confident and loves trying new things,” explains Claire. “I am so proud of Flanders and the accomplishments that we had as a team.” 

In February 2021, Flanders’ puppy training was complete and he transitioned into advanced guide dog training. 

“My family and friends loved Flanders, but we always knew his destiny was for a greater good: being a guide dog. I know that Flanders will bond with his future handler and make such a positive impact,” says Claire.

This was a memorable experience for Claire, and one that she will reflect on when she's raising other puppies in the future. 

“If you have a love of dogs and the time for training, raising a CNIB puppy is a very rewarding experience,” Claire encourages. “Flanders was the first future guide dog puppy we raised, but not our last. We will do this again for sure!” 

Update: Flanders is currently in formal training at CNIB Guide Dogs’ Canine Campus.

For information on puppy raising, visit cnib.ca/PuppyRaising.