Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
Guide dogs have provided invaluable service to humans over the years by happily performing demanding jobs and helping their masters through arduous situations.
Ross Freschette, a 72-year-old resident of Canada who is totally blind, is one such individual who receives invaluable aid from his Goldendoodle, 'Buster'.
What has made Freschette even more elated is that Jamaica's laws concerning the entry and exit of animals are in the process of being liberalised.
"Buster has changed my whole life. I have a whole new perspective since I lost sight fully in 1990 and have become very attached to him (Buster). If I wanted to go out for a walk before Buster was around, then somebody would have to take me," Freschette told The Gleaner.
"Where I live, my dog can take me out and even across the road as they can tell whether the (traffic) light is green or red. If there are any obstacles in my way, then he will guide me away from it as well," he added.
Freschette, who built his house in Jamaica just over a year ago, explained how difficult his first Christmas in the island was in 2011 as he wasn't able to take Buster along with him.
"The difference is like night and day. When I left him at home (Canada) in 2011, I had tears in my eyes. It left me heartbroken," he said.
"I was even questioning whether or not I should come to Jamaica last Christmas if I had to leave him at home again. I was pretty much going to sell my house, really, and go somewhere else. The attachment to Buster is just like having a child," he declared.
LEGISLATION BEING FINALISED
Dr Orville Watson, director of the Veterinary Services Division in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, told The Gleaner that the protocol pertaining to the new legislation was being finalised and would be ready within weeks.
"You have people who call and cry, especially Jamaicans that do not know what to do as the law prevents them from coming home because they are challenged, disabled and unable to have their service animals accompany them due to their location," Watson noted.
"The schedule of countries will also be changed so animals won't just be allowed from Great Britain and Ireland, but extended to other countries that do not have rabies or that have it adequately controlled based on international standards. We hope to boost our tourism product and also to ensure that Jamaicans abroad who want to return home with their service animals will be able to do so."