REGINA -- A partnership between the CNIB and the City of Regina is giving guide dogs their own timeslot to let loose off harness at one of Regina’s dog parks.

The pilot project sees the small dog area of the Mount Pleasant Dog Park reserved for guide dogs and their handlers exclusive access to the section of the park between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month.

So far, it’s seeing some use from local guide dogs and their handlers like Shan Noyes and Kix, who visited during the special window for the first time on Tuesday.

“When they’re in harness, they work and they can concentrate. But when they’re out of harness, they’re just like any other dog,” Noyes said. “They need to be able to play and run and have activities like this great dog park.”

“I can follow the fence in this smaller area and easily find him, know where he’s at and keep track of him,” said Ashley Nemeth, who brought her guide dog Danson to the park.

The CNIB also emphasized the need for guide dogs to have time for fun but said the exclusivity is to ensure the safety and comfort of both the guide dogs and their blind or visually impaired handlers.

“But they need to do it in a safe environment, so somewhere where the handler can easily access them if they do get away,” said Christall Beaudry, the CNIB Foundation’s executive director. “Somewhere where other dogs aren’t allowed because If they’re ever attacked by another dog or interact in an inappropriate way it could wreck their training for life, and these are $50,000 animals.”

Nemeth describes the park as a happy medium that lets her dog run around in a larger space, something she can’t do in a normal unfenced area.

“[Danson] isn’t allowed to just go in an unfenced area, because I don’t know where he is, I can’t keep track of him, I don’t know what else is around and who’s around, there’s just too many factors that make it dangerous,” Nemeth said. “With this area now being available, it’s really the only time he gets to go and be a dog.”

The pilot project started in January and is being well-received so far, especially by the dogs, with goals of expansion to other parks around the city during different timeslots to allow better access.

According to the CNIB around a dozen guide dogs are currently being used in the Regina area.