People

The Mother-and-son Relationship

 

by Phoebe Chau

"Sit, Yahoo!" Yahoo, a young dog, immediately obeys.

Without doubt, there's mutual trust between Yahoo and (his/her) owner, Edith Lee Yuen-yan.

Ms Lee is a cadet trainer and puppy walker at the Hong Kong Seeing Eye Dog Service (HKSEDS), as well as a mother of two daughters.

She volunteered to be a "Puppy Walker". "I would say my two daughters influenced me to make this decision," she says. Yahoo, a 2-year-old male Labrador, was adopted by Lee in 2013.

"I spend most of my time taking car of Yahoo. It is my responsibility to do so," Lee says. The cadet trainer takes the role of a mother and has to shoulder heavy responsibilities and sometimes sacrifice.

As a cadet trainer, Ms Lee provides Yahoo with daily socialization training. "Yahoo should be able to acquire the skills to overcome obstacles, in order to be qualified as a seeing-eye dog," she says.

Although she understood that Yahoo would not stay with her for good, an air of melancholy surrounds Ms Lee when she's asked about Yahoo's future placement. But she says visually impaired people need Yahoo's presence more than anyone else would.

Upon the completion of training, seeing-eye dogs are paired with visually impaired users. "The ‘eyes of the blind' were born to serve the community. It's their mission.They are not house pets," she says.

Seeing-eye dogs will only become someone's house pet when matching fails. If that happens, says Ms Lee, the puppy walker will then keep them as a pet.

Failure in matching seldom happens. David Wong was successfully matched with Hong Kong's first locally trained seeing-eye dog. He experiences a sense of security when his dog navigates him. "I hope the seeing-eye dog service will become more popular, and bring benefits to more visually impaired users," he says.

But without sufficient capital and human resources, seeing-eye dog training will develop at a glacial pace.

"We are hunting for families who are willing to commit and to walk seeing-eye dogs as daily training routines," Ms Lee says. So the selection of a puppy walker is strict, in order to prevent abandonment of the animal.

"The seeing-eye dog service is gradually being recognized in Hong Kong," she says, "and there are more public places allowing entry.

"I think it is crucial for people to respect the dogs and not take photos of them, as it distracts them from training," She says. "It is impolite when people take pictures without asking permission."

Yahoo is clearly a source of happiness for her walker. Ms Lee's beaming, maternal expression when discussing her seeing-eye dog reveals the intimacy and mutual recognition that has developed between them.

(Edited by Kumiko Lau)

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