CALGARY -- April 28th is International Guide Dog Day and 20 Canadians who are blind or partially sighted are graduating with their guide dogs after completing months of intensive training.

Fourteen-year-old Gabriel Pigeon and his "Buddy Dog" Maggie are among the 2021 graduates of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) Guide Dogs Buddy Program.

Pigeon told CTV News Calgary in an interview that throughout training he had a lot of fun and made some new friends but more importantly to him, "(Maggie) gives me a lot more confidence, I was always worried about running into poles, running into the clear bus shelters and with Maggie, she's able to steer me away from that."

According to the CNIB website; a CNIB Buddy Dog is partnered with a child or youth who is blind or partially sighted. Whether it’s feeding, grooming or walking this well-trained family pet, a buddy dog provides a child with an opportunity to care for a dog and make it easier for them to transition into a guide dog partnership in the future.

Pigeon said that he's learned new skills too as part of the program, "I've learned how to take care of a dog and how to properly train them." He added that," Having those life skills I'm hoping will be able to pay off later on."

The reality is that his guide dog is a little more than that.

"Maggie, she is a friend," Pigeon said. "She's also like a guardian type, making sure I don't hurt myself on walks."

Guide Dog

"One special thing about Maggie is she's able to tell when I have migraines and she's always by my side when I do."

Maggie, now a fully graduated buddy dog, is going to remain with Gabriel and live with him and his family to continue her service and training.

Pigeon said he is very thankful for the opportunity. "I'd just like to thank all the sponsors and the puppy raisers for being able to raise and properly train these animals to change others' lives."

To learn more about the CNIB guide dog programs visit: