Effort underway to help guide dog teams

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)-- For most of us dogs provide companionship, but for the visually impaired, their role is so much greater than just that.

Now guide dog teams around the Chippewa Valley are asking for your help, with winter fast approaching.
It's a daily routine for Renee and Charade, their typical walk around the neighborhood, in rain or shine. But recently, the guide dog team has been facing some challenges.

“If people try to wave me across, I cannot see them. Then it messes up all the other traffic around them,” says Renee Kuester-Sebranek, who has had her guide dog Charade for nearly six months now.

But Renee isn't the only one with those concerns.

“Access issues are faced time to time by people with service animals,” says Katherine Schneider, who has been working with guide dogs for the past 42 years.

Katherine and Renee say they both face similar issues, especially in the winter.

“When it's winter, it's hard to know where the curb is. Sometimes we get off of a corner. Stopping within 10 feet is a wonderful thing for people to do,” says Schneider.

“If people could keep their sidewalks clear of bushes and trees and even the six foot overhead clearance, we run into them a lot overhead too,” says Kuester-Sebranek.

That's why Renee reached out to law enforcement in search of help.

“She had some concerns about her walking her dog and wanted to make our department aware of some of the concerns that we deal with,” says Rob Teuteberg, an officer with the Chippewa Falls Police Department.

Teuteberg has been working with the guide dog team to solve some of those problems. He wants to get the word out to help other service dogs and their owners.

“The mission statement for the city of Chippewa Falls is to make our community a safe place to work, play and have fun. When we can do these things with people and work with them on a one on one basis, that’s what we're here to do.

Katherine says now, it's about making the public aware.

“It's a process of educating people and people generally want to do the right thing. They just may not know,” says Schneider.

And for the future, Kuester-Sebranek says “I just want more awareness of how to interact with guide dog teams, or blind and visually impaired people.”

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