GERT Maritz Primary School is on a mission to raise funds for the South African Guide Dog Association (Sagda).The school is doing this by filling a “puppy tree” which is decorated with 50 ribbons which cost R100 each.Gert Maritz, with the help of Carter High School, has filled two trees so far. Each tree when filled, funds one puppy in its training. Sagda is said to raise its own puppies from stock that have the required temperament. The dogs most often used are Labradors and golden retrievers, but other breeds can be trained too. The puppies then stay with families until they are about a year old. The families act as “puppy raisers” and they give the puppy a normal upbringing, exposing it to household noises, pets, cars, traffic and people. The family must then give the dog back to Sagda when it is ready to go to “boarding school” to begin training. After that, a blind person goes to school with the dog, and is taught how to look after it, and how to use the dog as “eyes”. And the dog learns to guide its blind owner across busy streets and navigate hazards. According to Lisa Ellis, Gert Maritz now sponsors two puppies — Yaris, which is a golden Labrador and Lync, which is a black Labrador. “The school gets quarterly updates on how the puppies are doing.“Recently, Grade 2 pupils were spoilt with a special visit by the South African Guide Dog Association,” said Ellis. Ellis added that Jo Garret visited to show the pupils how her guide dog, Enid, helps her. “This was to show them how much their sponsorship helps towards a puppy’s training,” said Ellis. She added that Gert Maritz is now busy with its third puppy tree. “We appeal to the community to sponsor a ribbon for our third tree. One ribbon costs R100 and if interested, please contact Mrs Wilson at Gert Maritz School at 033 345 1501,” said Ellis.