Fate guides Alex to dream role
GEELONG model and self-confessed animal lover Alex Hecker has landed her dream job working with the clever puppies at Guide Dogs Victoria.
Alex, a former Miss World Australia runner-up, has been a Guide Dogs ambassador for five years and now steps into a full-time puppy development advisor role.
While it might be a world away from the glamour of the catwalk, Alex said she found her calling after completing her dog behaviour and training qualification last year.
The 30-year-old will now spend her days at the Guide Dogs headquarters in Kew to play her part in the lifechanging work they do in supporting Australians living with low vision or blindness.
“I’m excited to be combining my love of people and my love of dogs,” she said.
“It’s obviously very important the work they do so to be able to be even more involved, with it being my career, is a really satisfying feeling.
“I’m definitely a country girl at heart – I had horses, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, cats and lizards growing up on a farm in Gnarwarre just outside Geelong.
“As a little girl my favourite book was the Dog Encyclopedia so I’ve always been dog crazy.”
Alex understands first-hand the challenges and rewards that come with being a Guide Dogs puppy raiser, having gone through the 12-month process with a golden labrador named Lynney.
“That was back in 2017 and 2018 when I was at the height of my modelling career and I absolutely loved the experience,” Alex recalled.
“Lynney came to a lot of photoshoots, Fashions on the Field, racing events and charity events – she came to all of them.”
Alex’s new role will involve providing support and guidance to puppy raisers and their pups, as well as doing puppy deliveries, conducting assessment walks, puppy behaviour modification and assisting with puppy classes and community events.
She said there were about 115 budding guide dogs currently in the puppy raising program.
“Not all of them make it as guide dogs which means some are reclassified as therapy dogs, autism dogs, PTSD dogs and some are reclassified as pets,” Alex said.
She encouraged anyone interested in becoming a puppy raiser to put up their hand and make a difference.
Many of the costs, including food and veterinary bills, are covered as part of the program and you can take the puppy almost everywhere with you.
“By law these guide dogs in training have the same legal rights as working guide dogs which means you can take them to the movies, you can take them shopping and pretty much anywhere a guide dog is allowed,” she said.
“It’s such a rewarding journey, especially when you look at the big picture and see what puppy raising can do for somebody.
“You are really changing someone’s life and giving them independence and a feeling of safety when they are out in the community.”
Anyone interested in becoming a puppy raiser can visit the Guide Dogs website.