By Jonas Denis
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“Forward,” Rémi Bouron ordered in a firm tone, turning to Rafale. He is a nine month old labrador, in training to become a guide dog.
Since 2017, Rémi Bouron, 35, has been working at the guide dog center in Great South West Aliénor-Bordeaux. Its role: to train canids to accompany visually impaired. Here in Mérignac (Gironde), we do not say “gym”, but “school”. A school for dogs.
For Rémi, it is the ideal job. It allows him to reconcile two vocations: his passion for dogs and solidarity with humans. “From my childhood, I have taken care of my sister with multiple disabilities since birth,” he says.
1½ years of education
With Rafale, who he holds at the end of the string to the left, the coach goes to the training ground installed behind the center. A fictional city has been recreated to place the dogs in real conditions.
“There are all kinds of pedestrian crossings that can be found in Bordeaux, obstacles in connection with construction sites, stairs, etc. We tried to reproduce as many situations as possible, ”explains Rémi and points to the process. Today, Rafale must practice spotting an obstacle and finding a way around it.
She’s a little overwhelmed. The difficulty here is that she must not disperse and identify an obstacle in the height which her master, unlike her, could not cross.
Before becoming guides, the animals are selected from the age of two months. Their training takes place in two parts: the first until they turn one year old, alternating between school and their host family, the second remains confined to the center for six to eight months.
“In total, the training of a guide dog lasts an average of 20 months. But every animal is different. Some learn faster than others “, comments the coach.
Rafale is doing really well from his practice. She surprised Rémi. “I am impressed, usually she struggles to find another way around the obstacle. Hi, you did a great job! »
As a reward, he offers her a treat before leading her to the foot of the stairs. “During their training, we have to think about everything. This course is well organized, but it must be supplemented with different street training, ”he adds.
Close to life
When Rémi returns to the kennel to hand over Rafale, Rémi takes advantage of the journey to set aside time for the animal.
I play a little with them, I give them compassion. Some dogs need a lot of pets to learn better, others will be more responsive if I shout a little more.
He points to another labrador among the five he trains: “Ryu, if I raise my voice, he will sulk and learn nothing. Each year, the school trains 16 to 18 guide dogs.
But Rémi’s task is not limited to their training. After returning to his office, he lays out several files. “This is the most important part of my job as a trainer. Match the profiles, as much as possible, between the animal and its master. And it’s not easy.”
Based on the training of a dog, Rémi identifies the type of master it will correspond to. Is it fast, calm, scattered, of character? “I have to take into account all the elements.”
Also blind or partially sighted people come to perform tests at the center. “We get them to go for walks with different dogs to understand what suits them best. »
Depending on these elements, he will associate a dog with a master. “Every adventure is unique. I meet so many different people, sometimes it goes perfectly, but there are also dramas,” he slips.
The first dog that was trained here, I gave it to an older person. The two profiles matched well, Moy went fast and his master too, the connection worked perfectly. Until the day when the master could no longer move from his home due to an illness. He traveled to Belgium for an assisted suicide. We found the animal in a state of shock.
Today, despite his advanced age, Moy has been adopted by a new person and seems to be doing better.
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