The puppies born to bring hope to children


Jan de Waal was rejected the first time he applied to be a trainer for the South African Guide Dog Association. He’d lived around the animals for 45 years and had been qualified to work with them for eight. Nonetheless, his job at the time took him abroad too often for the volunteering to be viable. But he was determined to get involved. When he retired from his nine to five, he got his chance.

De Waal first decided that he wanted to train dogs when he met a blind person with a guide animal. Intrigued by the intelligent pet, he committed himself to discovering how it came to possess the skills needed to assist a visually impaired person. De Waal has now been training guide dogs from his home for almost a decade.

The puppies come to him when they are seven weeks old. At this age they are ready to begin being socialised, the aspect of their growth in which De Waal specialises. He nurtures them for a full year before they move on to the Guide Dog Association for their next phase. In the end, De Waal is an important part of a chain of people investing in animals that go on to improve the lives of the blind, as well as physically disabled and autistic children.