Leanne Bremner’s guide dog, Eva, is so popular at CIBC that she occasionally offers cuddle time with Eva as a prize to encourage colleagues to donate to the bank’s supported charities. She also offers team members the opportunity for special cuddle sessions with Eva for their birthdays. These tactics not only help to strengthen team spirit, but they also keep co-workers from distracting Eva when she is in harness and working to help Leanne navigate CIBC’s corporate offices.
Leanne is a corporate communications professional at CIBC. Born with a degenerative eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, she gradually lost her vision in her late teens-early 20s. Never letting her visual impairment get in the way of her goals, Leanne has built a fulfilling career during her 17 years with the bank, and she credits much of her success to her partnership with Eva and her previous guide dogs.
Eva does much more than serve as a welcome addition to the workplace. Leanne says she couldn’t get to and from the office without her. She and Eva walk to the subway from her home and then travel into downtown Toronto, where they often navigate crowds of commuters, construction, and other challenges like snow banks during the winter months.
“There are often huge obstacles for a guide dog in navigating the streets of Toronto, such as crowds at intersections and traffic blocking the access to streets and sidewalks,” said Leanne. “Commuting can be a challenge here, but Eva is a trooper in overcoming challenges.”
Leanne reports that Eva is a stellar guide, but has equal energy when she is out of harness and off-duty, calling her the most playful dog she’s ever known. Eva is her fifth guide dog—she received her first guide dog in 1995.
Leanne and Eva were paired through Guide Dogs for the Blind International, a registered charity in Canada that helps provide individuals who are blind or visually impaired with highly qualified guide dogs free of charge. Guide Dogs’ sister organization, Guide Dogs for the Blind, is headquartered in California.
Leanne now serves on the board for Guide Dogs for the Blind after serving on the board for the Alumni Association for six years .
In addition to supporting Leanne’s career, Eva also plays a big role in her personal life. She is married and has a 10-year-old daughter. As a busy working mom, she relies on Eva to help the family maintain a full schedule, often covering uncharted locations around the city’s diverse neighbourhoods.
“People in Toronto are pretty good about spotting Eva’s harness and asking whether or not they can pet her,” said Leanne. “But surprisingly, it’s often the kids educating their parents about not petting a guide dog while she’s working.”
Leanne is a seasoned traveler, having visited 14 countries on five continents. As a trusted travel companion, Eva remains calm and focused when negotiating airports and boarding flights.
There is very little that Leanne can’t do, which is a point that she’d like to educate the general public about. “Blind people are just people who happen to be blind,” she said. “Guide dogs help us to be independent and contribute to society, just like everybody else, so my hope is that the general public would set aside past assumptions about our capabilities.”