Gloucester North Lions Club member Angèle Charlebois with her hearing ear dog, Candy. Candy and Charlebois, who has significant hearing loss, are inseparable. They both are regular volunteers at the Magical Village at Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, the annual Lions event and fundraiser.
Nestled within a miniature village filled with hundreds of figures is a small dog.
The tiny dog is only about the size of a thumbnail, but signifies an impact many times its size.
The dog, flanked by a sign that says Purina Dog Walk, represents the dog guides that the Lions Club sponsors, especially a black Labrador retriever named Candy.
Candy is a hearing ear dog, and belongs to Lions Club member Angèle Charlebois, a Beacon Hill resident.
Charlebois has had problems in both ears since the age of four, with numerous surgeries to try and improve her hearing. The operations did little to improve her situation and hearing aids were uncomfortable and often gave ear infections.
“I tried a lot of things before I had Candy,” Charlebois said. “The day I was introduced to Candy, I was at a crossroad because I had to accept my disability. Ever since then, it’s been Candy and I.”
Candy is with Charlebois all the time since they became a pair two-and-a-half years ago, accompanying her to her job at the federal government and on outings, but her real workplace is within the home.
She’s trained to respond to knocks on the door, when Charlebois’ daughter calls her name and the fire alarm.
In the morning, she can hear the alarm clock when Charlebois can’t, and touches their noses together to try and wake her up. If she doesn’t get up, she’ll eventually jump up on the bed.
Four years ago, Charlebois was nicked by a car while crossing the street. She said if Candy had been with her, she would have been able to hear the car and the dog would likely have shepherded her out of the way.
She’s also helped Charlebois come out of her shell and engage with the community.
“Before I had Candy, I would avoid social settings,” Charlebois said. “Now, I have to think outside the box because she gets so much attention.”
Candy is also the reason why Charlebois became a Lions member. After picking up Candy at the dog guide training centre in Oakville, Ont. she wanted to give something back.
She helped organize the first National Capital Purina Dog Walk for Dog Guides, and was made a Lions member the day of the walk.
Now volunteering at the Gloucester North Lion’s annual Magical Village at the Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, she has a chance to help raise funds for more dog guides.
The Magical Village, full of miniature trains, homes and people, more than a month to set up, and runs through the Christmas season on the upper level of the mall near the food court.
They collect donations for three causes – the Dog Guides, the Gloucester Emergency Food Cupboard, and the Multiple Organ and Retrieval Exchange.
“I wanted to pay back the cost,” Charlebois said.
Besides hearing dogs, guide dogs are also raised to help the visually impaired, and those with autism, epilepsy, and mobility disabilities.
It means that the little dog, one of thousands of tiny pieces that compose the village, might be missed by a quick scan of the eye, but has been able to make a huge difference.