It is one of the finest examples of human/animal bonding and when that bond is broken by the death of their guide dog the pain experienced by the blind person is enormous ... possibly far greater than any sighted person suffers at the loss of a pet.
To help our GDO's to cope with this as best they can S.A.G.A. suggests that they come for a replacement dog before the old one ages too much or dies. This is also a good idea because as a dog reaches old age its effectiveness starts to diminish which can affect the safety of the owner.
All GDO's are requested to take their dogs for a general veterinary check up 3 times a year. On reaching 10 years of age this is increased to 4 times a year. At this stage S.A.G.A. asks for a Veterinary Health Certificate and this generally provides some indication as to how long the dog will still be capable of working. Should there be signs of deterioration (e.g. eyes, hearing or limbs) the GDO can then be retrained with a new dog.
Hopefully the GDO is able to retain the old dog with the dog being allowed to grow old gracefully "sleeping in the sun".
Should the guide dog owner not be able to look after the dog in retirement then the Association commits itself to either re-homing the dog or the dog resides at the Training Centre for the rest of its life.
For more information on the South African Guide Dog Association visit their website on www.guidedog.org.za