This adorable pup has entered the world not knowing he’s already a star in Donegal!
In fact, little OJ’s arrival was anticipated long before he was born. Now he has a big life ahead of him as he trains to be an Irish Guide Dog in Cork.
OJ’s training has been funded by a heart-warming campaign by Buncrana woman Jennifer Doherty.
Jennifer, who is blind from birth, has benefited from the assistance of guide dogs since she was 21. Now an independent businesswoman, she wanted to give something back to the Irish Guide Dogs in memory of her first companion.
Jennifer’s guide dog OJ (the first) opened up a world of possibilities for her after she left college. The gentle black Labrador was a much-loved part of her family until he passed away in 2017.
In honour of OJ, Jennifer set up a fundraiser last year to raise money to support the care of a guide dog pup and have it named after the first dog who changed her life.
A whirlwind year of events and awareness talks followed. Jennifer and OJ’s story captured the hearts of dog lovers across Donegal and they more than doubled the initial target of €5,000.
Speaking to DW today, Jennifer said the total is just €300 short of €11,000.
She said: “I’m hoping we can find the rest before I go down to Cork to see the pups. I would love to be able to present a cheque to Irish Guide Dogs when we are ready.”
OJ the second is a sweet golden retriever born on 13th January.
Each litter of pups that are born to be Guide Dogs or Assistance Dogs are given names starting with the same letter of the alphabet. This meant that Jennifer had to wait until the next ‘O’ family came along before she could pass on the name OJ.
“It seemed like a long wait but the longer we waited the more money we raised,” she said.
Jennifer was amazed by the generosity of the public.
One major boost came from the Pen to Paper writing group in Donegal, who donated €2,500 from the sale of a charity anthology book.
Schools in the Buncrana area donated large amounts as Jennifer and her current guide Sybil visited to raise awareness of guide dogs among students. The Castle Grove Dog Show, two days of pet photo shoots by the Memory Factory and a pet portrait raffle all added to the total, among other successful events.
It costs €38,000 to raise a guide dog from birth and support it during its working life.
The new OJ may become a guide dog or an assistance dog to someone with autism, depending on his temperament. Whatever his destiny, Jennifer will be happy that he will grow up to change a life as much as her dog did.
“Anyone who gets him will have been on a waiting list that is very well assessed and they will be very deserving,” she said.
“If it’s half as good as my OJ was it will be great.”
You can follow Jennifer’s fundraising page https://www.facebook.com/ojthelifechanger/ on to keep up to date with OJ the second, as Jennifer said she will post any updates she gets on his training.