Thursday, August 7, 2014

The City's IT department says goodbye to one of its most pawsitive employees

You may have seen him walking around City Hall, or the Andrew Davison Building. He’s not hard to miss, though you have to look down to see him. The City of Calgary Information Technology’s very own mascot and Stephen Dawes' guide dog, Alfredo, will be retiring this September after seven and a half years of service.

Fondly referred to as Alfie or Fredo, Alfredo has worked with Stephen Dawes, IT management systems analyst for The City of Calgary, since 2007. At the time, Alfredo was only two years old, but was fully trained as a guide dog. “Alfredo is the smallest dog guide I’ve ever worked with, each dog has their own technique, getting adjusted to that takes time and training,” says Stephen.

In order to become a qualified guide dog, Alfredo had to pass extensive training at Guide Dogs for the Blind. Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their own dogs (most of which are Labradors) in California. In addition to the breeding center, they have two training centers located in California and Oregon respectively, where they teach the dogs everything they need to know about being a guide dog.

“During the introduction phase I learned how to work with Alfredo and identified techniques to work together as a team. I also learned about caring for Alfredo and how to detect any health issues he might have during our time together,” says Stephen. "The hardest lesson to learn is how to completely trust the dog, especially in dangerous scenarios.”

In addition to his every day job, Alfredo and Stephen are also busy volunteering with a number of different organizations, with the most enjoyable being speaking and answering questions from kindergarten and grade one students. “The kids love to hug him, pet him and ask questions like, can Alfredo drive?” says Stephen. “Alfredo brings joy to everyone he meets; he’s more like a co-worker than a dog. He’s really become part of IT.”

Visiting with Alfredo is a great stress reliever for staff. “Alfredo puts a smile on everyone’s face. Some people don't have a dog or pets so getting to spend five to ten minutes with Alfredo makes people happy; I will sadly miss him,” says Tracy Johnston, administrative assistant, Information Technology.

So what does Alfredo have planned for his golden years? Once he retires he will transition from working dog to the family pet. “He likes to be around people, making sure everyone is accounted for at home,” says Stephen. “He’s integrated into everything we do, he comes camping and for walks with the family."

As for Stephen, he will be heading off to Portland, Oregon on September 14, 2014 to start training with a new guide dog.

Find out more about diversity at The City and current job opportunities at calgary.ca/careers.

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