International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners
IAADP & ADI Delegation
Visits South Africa
Excerpt from "A Tail To Tell" column, in Partners Forum, V.4 No.2 by Ed & Toni Eames
Our February trip to South Africa has now been relegated to our memory banks. Royal Dutch Airlines treated our group graciously. The unique experience of transporting two guide and three service dogs was handled with aplomb. To and from Johannesburg, we had long lay-overs in Amsterdam. Esther Vos and her Labrador guide dog Elmer visited with us on the way over, and arranged with Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation, Elmer's alma mater, to host our delegation at their facility on our return trip.
In South Africa, Ken Lord and Malcolm Driver of South African Guide-Dogs Association (AAGA) hosted us during our stay in Johannesburg. Many of our meals were provided at SAGA and we had the opportunity to meet students in training, graduates and members of the board. A special treat was meeting Gladys Evans, the pioneer who brought the guide dog movement to South Africa. Now in her late 70's, Gladys continues to be an active guide dog partner.
Our hotel accommodations were great, food was plentiful and delicious and the South African people were friendly and welcoming to our dogs. We attended professional meetings, visited the veterinary school, shopped for souvenirs and toured a farm museum and a cheetah research station. In the former black township of Soweto, we visited factories established, run and managed by blind and disabled people.
The People to People International, Citizen Ambassador Program delegations usually spend some time at Kreuger National Park. However, Park officials would not accept our assistance dogs. This decision worked to our advantage--we stayed at Exeter Game Lodge, an elegant private reserve. Those of us interested in driving through the bush in open Land Rovers, left our dogs in our spacious hotel rooms. For us as blind people, there was a dream-like quality to these Land Rover trips, since we could neither see nor hear the lions, giraffes, zebras, impalas and other wild animals practically within touch. However, the excitement of our sighted companions was contagious. After an exhilarating day in the bush, it was fun relaxing on the veranda at Exeter sipping Amarula, a liqueur made from a wild growing fruit, which could easily give Bailey's Irish Cream a run for its money.
Next on our itinerary was Capetown where we visited organizations and schools for disabled people, toured a brandy distillery, took a boat ride around the harbor and waded with penguins in the Indian Ocean at the Cape of Good Hope. We had a splendid lunch at a restaurant owned by a graduate of SAGA who works with a Golden Retriever service dog. Other members of the SAGA staff provided companionship and hospitality.
It's an impossible task to collapse 12 magic days into just a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that we are working on obtaining sponsorship to return to South Africa as soon as possible. You may be wondering how our Golden Retriever guide dogs did on this trip. For Escort and Echo, it was all in a day's work!