At one time or another, we've all seen a cute puppy wearing a little red scarf from the Mira Foundation. Read on to learn about Essilor Canada's involvement with the Foundation and discover more about the Foster Family Program.
At Essilor Canada, we improve vision to improve life. Canadians' visual health is the inspiration for everything we do: from the development of our products, services, technologies and training to our philanthropic initiatives and our involvement in the domain of environment, health and safety.
We have partnered with the Mira Foundation since 2014 with the goal of helping those with special visual needs to increase their independence. We have engaged with our business partners (eye care professionals) to raise money to pay for dog training through the establishment of a fundraising program. For each pair of Varilux® seriesTM lenses sold, both partners contribute an equal amount of money to the Mira Foundation. So far, Mira has received $80,000 from the initiative. The cost for the training of a guide or service dog is $30,000 — the funds we have raised have helped to train two dogs so far.
For its part, the Mira Foundation is committed to increasing the autonomy and social inclusion of people with visual and physical disabilities as well as those with autism spectrum disorder. With this goal in mind, it provides dogs, free of charge, that have been trained to meet specific needs.
The Foster Family Program aims to socialize puppies in order to prepare them for guide or service dog training. What does this mean for a foster family? The family is expected to raise the puppy so that the dog is well behaved within the home. Families are also expected to regularly expose the puppy to the different environments in which it will work, once fully grown. A puppy stays with its foster family for approximately 18 months, starting from the age of nine weeks. After this period, it is returned to the Foundation to begin its training.
We met with a Montreal foster family to discuss their experience and perhaps awaken the interest of becoming a foster family in some of our readers...
Even though no one in the foster family needed a guide or service dog, becoming involved in the process was extremely important to the family — it was their way of giving back to the community. Moved by the cause and the Foundation's mission, the parents were eager to enroll in the Foster Family Program. "Socializing the animal was very easy," they explained. "He quickly became the mascot of the family, the children's school and even of the neighbourhood!"
Mira foster families are expected to teach their animal to chew on its toys not on people's shoes; to sleep on the floor rather than on the bed or couch; to eat its own food rather than table scraps. These rules also gave a sense of discipline and routine to the children from the foster family we met. From the very beginning, the children were told about each step of the process and the impact that every one of their actions would have on the adult life of the dog. Foster families are also expected to teach the puppy the basics of being a dog: becoming house-trained, answering to its name and learning some basic commands (sit, lie down, come).
The foster family was pleasantly surprised by the neighbourhood's interest in the Foundation. Almost every dog walk turned into a discussion with someone about the steps to becoming a foster family. These conversations also put an end to one of the most common myths about Mira puppies: you CAN pet them! Mira puppies are not yet "at work", as a result, it is entirely permissible to pat them. In fact, it is strongly recommended. Just proceed in the same manner as you would with any dog - ask its master if you may approach and touch the dog. Every member of this foster family was enriched by the experience and strongly recommends it to all those who love animals and hold the Mira Foundation's cause close to their hearts!
There are several different ways to help the Mira Foundation. Visit www.mira.ca to make a donation or fill out the form to apply to become a foster family.