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The Chubu Guide Dog for the Blind Association based in Nagoya is working to build the nation’s first intensive care nursing home where elderly people and retired guide dogs can live together.

The association, which trains and provides guide dogs to visually impaired people in the Chubu region for free, is scouting for a quiet location in Aichi Prefecture with a hot springs. The facility is expected to cost at least ¥1 billion.

The association came up with the idea after finding that many seniors grieve when they are required to return their guide dogs.

“I know there is no other choice because I am blind and things become difficult as both (the dog and I) are getting old, but my heart is torn from having to say goodbye,” one senior told the association.

The association has around 60 guide dogs in the Chubu region and about five “retire” every year. Dogs are usually taken care of by volunteer families until they turn 1 year old. After about a year of training, those certified as guides start living with blind people from the age of 2. But they must retire after turning 12 (about 60 in human years), and spend the rest of their lives with volunteer families. They also must be returned if owners become incapable of caring for them.

The rule is for the safety of both parties, but seniors find parting ways incredibly painful as the canines have become dearer than family.

“We have witnessed many cases where people age suddenly or become depressed after saying goodbye to their guide dogs,” an official said.

To resolve this situation, the association, which used to be incorporated, turned into a social welfare services corporation in 2013 so it could run intensive care nursing homes. It then began making concrete plans to build the unique facility.

The unique facility will have room for 80 and include a dog run, an onsen for both people and dogs, and a place where all can interact. If their health permits, the residents will be allowed to sleep with their dogs in their rooms.

Visually impaired seniors and guide dogs will be given priority, but other dog lovers and their pets will also be accepted.

“We want to find the best way to protect the irreplaceable bond between humans and dogs,” the association’s Managing Director Junji Tajima said.

For more information, contact the Chubu Guide Dog for the Blind Association at (052) 661-3111.

This section, appearing Tuesdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on May 23.

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