Guide dog hero Kiwi and Blair McConnell – encouraging New Zealanders throughout the country to get behind the online auction on Guide dog hero Kiwi and Blair McConnell – encouraging New Zealanders throughout the country to get behind the online auction on CREDIT: Bayleys

Online auction supports guide dog heroes in Christchurch

Friday 11 March 2011, 9:22AM
By Bayleys


The moving story of one man’s survival during the Christchurch earthquake has proven that not only are Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind (RNZFB) guide dogs essential for everyday independence, but they can also save lives.

In an effort to support these canine heroes, New Zealanders are being encouraged to bid on items on an online auction raising urgently needed funds for the RNZFB’s Guide Dog Services.

The Every Dog Has its Day online auction is being run through the website and has been organised by leading real estate agency Bayleys – with auction items sourced from every region and city throughout the country… from Kerikeri to Stewart Island.

Guide dog user Blair McConnell is one of the 1,200 blind and partially sighted Cantabrians impacted by the earthquake - and has his brave guide dog Kiwi to thank for getting out of the February 22 disaster unscathed.

An office worker with almost no sight, Blair would travel to his workplace in Christchurch’s Hereford Street each day with Kiwi leading the way. After the earthquake struck, Blair grabbed Kiwi’s harness, and his faithful guide dog bravely led him down the stairs and out of the building. Blair’s colleagues at Telecom then helped the pair escape from the area.

Blair and Kiwi are one of 40 guide dog teams based in Christchurch - all of which made it safely through the earthquake. However, many guide dogs now require retraining, as their familiar walking routes have changed dramatically. Some are also suffering stress - which means they may need to be ‘retired’ and new guide dogs will need to be trained.

The Every Dog Has its Day on line auction runs until March 17 through and will help to provide essential funds for the RNZFB’s Guide Dog Services to enable this extra support in Canterbury, while also continuing to support blind and partially sighted people throughout New Zealand.

Fantastic items on the Every Dog Has its Day auction have been donated from individuals and companies throughout the entire country. Among some of the items up for bidding are:

  • Dates with All Black skipper Ritchie McCaw or supermodel Rachel Hunter
  • Private training sessions with All Whites soccer star Aaron Clapham or the league leading Breakers basketball team
  • Big game fishing trips or game hunting expeditions
  • The chance to be an extra on New Zealand’s longest running TV show.

Bayleys managing director Mike Bayley said: “Fundraising for those impacted by the Christchurch earthquake, like Blair and Kiwi, has taken on a national importance since the events of February 22.

“This auction combines Bayleys’ commitment to Guide Dog Services, as its principal sponsor, with a big focus on helping guide dogs and their owners in Christchurch get back on their feet,” he says.

RNZFB chief executive Sandra Budd is grateful for the continued support of New Zealanders in a time when people’s hearts are naturally focused on many urgent needs in Christchurch.

“New Zealanders have already lived up to their long-standing reputation for generosity, with ongoing support for the people of Christchurch. We’re currently channeling a significant amount of time, resources and money to helping our members like Blair affected in the Canterbury region. However, we also need help to sustain this over and above our essential services throughout the country,” she says.

Meanwhile Blair, who is conscious that he and Kiwi will need to retrain a new route to his new work location, remains grateful - being strongly behind the fundraising efforts to support RNZFB guide dogs.

“I’m so thankful to Kiwi for putting my life ahead of his, and to my colleagues who despite their own fear during the earthquake, put themselves at risk to assist me,’ he said.

To become a RNZFB guide dog, puppies train for two years, pass 55 different tests, and walk thousands of steps.

Bayleys has been the principal sponsor of the RNZFB’s Guide Dog Services since 2004 – generating $2million for the organisation already.