New pup honours Jennifer’s beloved guide dog OJ

Jennifer, pictured with OJ the puppy.
Jennifer, pictured with OJ the puppy.

A Buncrana woman has told of her joy at meeting a puppy named in memory of her much-loved and sadly missed guide dog.

Jennifer Doherty has raised over €11,000 to support the pup as he trains to become a guide dog or assistance dog for a child with Autism.

The Labrador-Retriever has been named ‘OJ,’ to honour Jennifer’s previous guidedog with the same name, who sadly passed away.

The original ‘OJ,’ who accompanied Jennifer when she was 21, was an extremely special dog and she was heartbroken when he died.

Last year, she set up the ‘OJ, the Life Changer’ fundraising campaign to name a future puppy in his memory. While she initially hoped to raise €5000, to help support the new ‘OJ’ in his first year of training, she ended up with a phenomenal €11,000, which will be split over two years.

This week, Jennifer met the new ‘OJ’ at the Irish Guide Dog Centre in Cork. Each new litter of puppies is given a letter as their first initial and the ‘O’ litter was born nine weeks ago.

Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ Jennifer, who now has another adored dog called ‘Sybil,’ said she was “delighted” to meet ‘OJ’s’ namesake.

“We went down to Cork on Tuesday. It was a long way to go to pet a puppy! But, it was lovely. He’s fairly laid back and is very big for his age. I was delighted, as I didn’t know when I was going to meet him and I wanted to do so when he was small.”

Jennifer admitted how it was “very weird” to call another dog ‘OJ.’

“I called his name and it felt so strange. I hadn’t called another dog by that since ‘OJ’ died.”

Young ‘OJ’ went to Waterford on Wednesday to live with his volunteer ‘puppy raisers.’ He will spend a year there, learning the ‘basics’ before returning to Cork, where it will be decided if he is better suited as a guide dog, or as an assistance dog for a child with Autism.

Jennifer said a “massive thank you” to everyone who has supported her fundraisers. She told how more than half the money was raised around Buncrana and Inishowen, with the rest donated through events taking place throughout the county, aided by North West fundraising co-ordinator, Linda Foley.

She told how Linda would put fundraisers in touch with her and she, in turn, was then able to attend these events along with ‘Sybil.’

Jennifer said the pup will end up “changing someone’s life” and added that meeting him eased her pain of losing her own cherished ‘OJ.’