BIST Heroes 5K Dynamic Duo: Charles Gluckstein and his Sidekick Duke

Are you ready, heroes? Meet Charles Gluckstein – he says it’s his sidekick Duke who brings him out to the BIST Heroes 5K Run, Walk or Roll every year – but we’re pretty sure nothing on Earth could keep this ABI hero away from our 5K!

5K Poster 2017
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Tell us a bit about your work:

It is always heart wrenching, yet inspiring, to meet and work with individuals who have survived trauma including brain injuries. Most have a great will to persevere no matter the barrier. As a youngster my father exposed me to the places such as Variety Village and the Active Living Alliance where I could volunteer as a photographer for their special events and was amazed at the accomplishments and great spirit of individuals who had suffered from physical and mental challenges.

Once becoming a lawyer I immediately volunteered as a Director of the former BIST. Our firm [Gluckstein Personal Injury Lawyers] has always supported the Ontario Brain Injury Association of which my father was a founding director and similar organizations. I’m very passionate about helping individuals living with brain injuries as they are the most vulnerable victims, and the ones who need the most help with their recovery and changes in their lifestyle.

Charles Gluckstein swims in a lake with his dog Duke
True ABI Heroes: Charles Glucksten and Duke

Why do you participate in the BIST 5K?

It’s Duke (my dog) who forces me to run the BIST 5K! He loves outdoor activities and being around people so he brings me along to drive him to the event. But in all seriousness, I participate in the BIST 5K event with my family because I believe it supports a great cause and one that is and has been close to our hearts.

What does being a hero of brain injury mean to you?

To me, a hero of brain injury is someone who has sustained an injury and is working hard every day to overcome the challenges they face, and tries every day to be better than they were the day before. I try to help those with brain injuries to receive financial, moral and medical support, but I am by no means the hero, they are.

What is your favorite part about race day?

My favorite part of race day is seeing everyone come together on an equal footing. You have brain injury survivors, community leaders and medical and legal professionals bringing their families to participate together towards the same goal. Once the suit and ties are off and the medical gowns are put away, the egos are put away as well. We are all there to have a good time and interact with one another, not as professionals, patients, referral sources, caregivers but instead as humans.

Jenn Bowler is a social worker in the Trauma Program at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and is a member of the BIST 5K Run, Walk, & Roll Committee.

Everything you ever wanted to know about service dogs – wagging tails and all


I was accompanying a colleague to a concert a year or so ago, when she happened to spot a friend of her’s in the crowd.

“Oh, there’s Joan,” she said to me, indicating a woman taking her seat not far from us. Indeed, Joan was not difficult to miss, for she too, had a companion with her. But despite joining Joan for the concert, the companion had little interest in it, nor would she have had to dress up for the occasion. Have you guessed who Joan’s companion was? She was Talullah, a gorgeous black Labrador retriever service dog, who goes everywhere with her visually impaired handler.

service dog in subway
photo credit: roboppy via photopin cc

Many of us know that service dogs may be admired but not pet or approached in a way we’d approach most other animals. Their function, after all, is to guide and be the eyes, ears or brain of their owners.

During intermission, my colleague and I went over to greet Joan, who turned out to be a lovely lady with a huge smile. I said to her, “I love your dog, but I know that we aren’t supposed to demonstrate any degree of familiarity with a working animal, so I’ll refrain from petting her.” Joan replied: “Oh, Talullah loves people, she wouldn’t mind a bit.” In an instant, my hand was being covered in doggy kisses!

It’s probably impossible to estimate how many dogs there are in service in Canada, but the Lions Foundation of Canada – one of the foremost training facilities in the country – claims that more than 2000 teams have graduated from their organization. Service dogs differ from working or therapy dogs in that their function is to help and guide a specific handler who might have anything from a visual or hearing impairment to a brain injury, mental illness, seizures or autism. There are no breed requirements for service dogs, the only criteria are that they are of good temperament and psychological make-up, are in good health and, most importantly, can be trained easily. For obvious reasons, larger breeds such as German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have long been preferred due to their size, strength and endurance.

black lab service dog
photo credit: State Farm via photopin cc

 A Mini History

Dorothy Eustis with service dog
Dorothy Eustis and Morris Frank; photo credit: National Women’s History Museum 

Details are hazy as to the origins of service dogs, but it seems they began in post World War I Germany where German Shepherds were trained to provide assistance to those blinded in the conflict. This particular breed was felt to possess a degree of loyalty towards its owner and with it, a strong protective sense. Around the same time, an American woman by the name of Dorothy Eustis heard about the program. She had been training German Shepherds as working dogs and soon began to train them as guides for the blind. Writing about her endeavours in the Saturday Evening Post, Eustis attracted the attention of Morris Frank, a visually impaired man from Nashville who wrote to her asking her to train a dog for him. She did so, and Mr. Frank became the first person to make use of a guide dog. As part of the arrangement, Frank started to train dogs as well, and his efforts blossomed into a foundation dubbed The Seeing Eye.

Training Service Dogs 

The first service dog organization in Canada was the MIRA Foundation, a community-based institution founded in Quebec by Eric St-Pierre in 1981. Each year, MIRA places roughly 150 service dogs with individuals across Canada and around the world. In 1991, MIRA created a guide dog program for visually impaired children, and to date is the only school in the world to provide guide dogs to those under age the age of 15.

At MIRA, the training process begins when puppies are just seven-weeks-old. Once selected, they are placed with a foster family who help them socialize and prepare for guide and service dog training in many different environments. The training family ensures the dog is involved in all its daily routines so that they grow accustomed to navigating places such as shopping malls, public transit and street traffic.

service dogs in training, sitting on steps
photo credit: Beverly & Pack via photopin cc

Once the year–long training period has ended, dogs return to MIRA to continue training with potential handlers. Dogs are matched according to the personality and lifestyle of the new owner.

Joan, a retired librarian, acquired Tallullah (or Mrs. T) from the Oregon-based Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). Joan chose GDB because she says its training program uses positive reinforcement and there is ongoing staff support once the handler training is complete. At the outset, Joan spent considerable time with Talullah, so that they could get to know each other. In the end, the lovable Mrs. T seemed a perfect match.

Man walking service dog
photo credit: smerikal via photopin cc

Joan wrote about their life together after her retirement:

Since April 2010, Tallulah and I have had many adventures and travelled to Paris, Vienna, Prague, Leipzig, London, Oxford, and Dublin.  She has a European Passport and logs passport stamps just as I do.  We returned at the end of the summer to Oxford and stayed at the same place we stayed at two years ago.  She remembered and recognized the places we had visited.  With a tilt of her head, she would ask, “Would you like to go here?”

Tallulah has given me a measure of freedom that I did not have before.  She is the closest thing to seeing!  I can walk with freedom, take the subway (she finds me a seat), walk on to a plane with her, attend concerts, and go shopping (she finds my favourite departments and sales staff).  I did all of these things before, but Tallulah makes it easy!

As we’ve all seen, service dogs are sturdy, friendly and fiercely loyal to their human companions. Yes, they may look eager for a pat or a hug, but they’re there to do a job and fulfill a role. And contrary to popular opinion, they aren’t only for the severely impaired or for those at the end of a life-threatening illness.

Many people, including brain injury survivors, find the use of a service dog invaluable, helping to make their lives easier with the aim at achieving the ultimate goal of self -sufficiency. During their 100 year history, service dogs have been the eyes, ears, nose, legs and brains of their handlers, providing invaluable, and in some cases, life-saving assistance. Long may they continue to help those who need it, they’re most definitely more than just a friendly bark or a wagging tail!

Think you’d like a service dog? Stay tuned for our up-coming post on ‘How to get a service dog in Ontario’

How to have a pet on a budget: useful resources

Ok, so we know that pets cost money. But there are ways you can cut down on expenses and provide your animal companion with everything he or she needs. Here’s our list of resources that can help.

dog is superman costume
photo credit: prawnpie via photopin cc

Pet Food Banks

If times are tight, you can go to a pet food bank for free pet food. Unfortunately there are only two pet food banks in Toronto – and both are downtown. Though at times, your local food bank may have pet food as well.

The Toronto Humane Society operates both pet food banks:

The Toronto Humane Society (Mon – Fri, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Sat-Sun, 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.) 11 River Street, Toronto (at Queen)

St. James Town Community Corner (2nd Thursday of the month, 12 p.m.-3 p.m.) 200 Wellesley Street East (at Parliament)

Veterinary Care

The Toronto Humane Society operates a low-cost, high volume spay and neuter clinic. The clinic prioritizes cats due to the high numbers of stray felines in town, though dog care is occasionally available. Also, people on financial assistance such as ODSP, Ontario Works, or CPP get a discounted rate.

The Farley Foundation provides financial assistance up to $1,000 a year to cover veterinary fees for people in Ontario who are on various forms of social assistance, such as ODSP. Medical procedures must be non-elective (necessary) and not part of an animal’s routine care (for example, the Farley Foundation does not provide assistance for food.)

Animal Rescue Groups

Animal rescue groups are volunteer-run organizations dedicated to keeping homeless animals off the streets, and out of shelters (where they will likely be caged, and if not adopted in a certain time period, possibly euthanized). Rescue groups tend to have no-kill policies, and animals are ‘fostered’ in volunteers’ homes until they are adopted. They may also have the resources to help with things such as specialized, veterinarian recommended diets.

Dog Rescue Group

Canada’s Guide to Dogs has an online listing of canine rescue groups here – organizations include breed rescues (such as pugs) to your general, run-of-the-mill, awesome muts.

Dog in store looking at camera
photo credit: jumping lab via photopin cc

Cat Rescue Groups

Toronto Cat Rescue – The Toronto Cat Rescue says they usually have around 300 cats waiting for adoption at any given time. While the cost of adopting a cat is $175, if you adopt a cat older than 8-years-old, it’s pay-what-you-choose. Cost includes spay or neuter, vaccination and six weeks of pet insurance.

Annex Cat Rescue – The Annex Cat Rescue started as a group of dedicated cat vollies in  Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood almost two decades ago, but has since spread throughout the city. They say their adoption fee is ‘modest’ and includes vaccination, microchip, de-worming and four weeks of pet insurance. Right now, you can adopt a special needs cat for $80.

Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue – Forgotten Ones Cat Rescue charges $175 for cat adoption and $225 for kittens. Adoption fee includes: pet insurance for 30 days, vaccinations, physical exam, flea treatment, ear mite exam and treatment, feline leukemia and FIV test, spay or neuter and de-worming.

Cat Busters – Cat busters holds regular adoption sessions at Pet Valu stores in Toronto. Adoption fee includes six weeks of pet insurance, de-flea treatment, de-worming, or ear mite treatment, spay or neuter, and vaccinations as deemed necessary.

Action Volunteers for Animals – In its third decade of dedicated animal-oriented activism, this group of volunteers is willing to go the extra mile to help cats and dogs.

Second Hold Circle – An Oakville-based rescue organization which aims to find homes for hard-to-place animals. (Black cats are awesome!)

You can fiind more animal shelters at 

People With AIDS (PWA)

PWA provides a variety of services to assist people living with HIV/AIDs in caring for their pets such as:

  • Referrals to vets in Toronto who provide free or reduced cost veterinary services
  • The option to use $300 which PWA provides annually to its members on items their pet needs
  • Free pet food and supplies available at PWA’s Essentials Market

Dealing with fleas (eww) is a great online resource for tips on getting rid of a nasty infestation.

cat with half black and half brown face
photo credit: Tjflex2 via photopin cc

DYI Grooming has great tips for how to groom your dog – properly.

For more information, see our post on How to have a pet on a budget here and be sure to tell us about the awesome animal(s) in your life via our Pet Photo Contest here

How to have a pet on a budget



The costs associated with owning a pet can vary widely – based on the species, breed, age, and even the area in which you live. But, costs are inevitable and should be included in your budget before you make the decision to add a new member to the family.

Cat playing in green tube
photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc


A recent report by the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association puts the overall cost of owning a dog for 13 years at about $29,000, and close to $24,000 to own a cat for 15 years. This breaks down to between $150 – $180 per month for the average pet owner. A little less expensive are bunnies and other smaller species, but you are still looking at about $450 a year for just the basics.

While the above costs include pet insurance payments, they do not include emergency medical expenses which can easily enter into the thousands if your pet is injured or severely ill. They also do not include many of the one-time expenses that owners encounter such as purchasing a crate or getting the animal spayed or neutered.

So how can you save money on your pet expenses?

Start by choosing a pet from your local rescue organization. These animals should already have been spayed or neutered, received their initial vaccines and deworming, as well as had a microchip implanted – all included in the adoption fee.

If you are interested in getting a dog, remember that size does make a difference in costs. Larger animals eat more, and medical bills may also be higher. In terms of energy level, a lower energy dog may be able to make it through the work day without the need for a dog walker or doggy daycare services.

Pay attention to their coat. Fluffy dogs and cats look fantastic when their fur is in tip-top shape, but keeping them well-coiffed may mean spending a fortune at the groomers.

dog whose body is in a big bag of dog food
photo credit: RichardTurnerPhotography via photopin cc

Clip coupons and shop wisely. Pet foods often go on sale, and many stores offer frequent buyer cards for your favorite pet food brand. If cash is extremely tight reach out to your local food bank to see if they offer pet foods. The Toronto Humane Society operates two pet food banks – one at our 11 River Street location and one in St. James Town.

Bargain hunt. Look for gently used toys and crates at garage sales or online ads, but make sure you sanitize any purchases thoroughly before sharing with your pet.

Get creative. There are tons of ideas on the web for making homemade toys for our pets. It’s less costly than buying a ready-made toy and better yet, you made it with love.

dog chewing toy
photo credit: sachman75 via photopin cc

Barter services. Need a dog walker or kitty sitter while you are away but don’t have the cash on hand? Try to barter with a friend or family member with something you are good at – such as housecleaning, baking, or handyman jobs – and exchange it for pet care services.

Shop around for your veterinary clinic. Prices can vary widely, even between clinics that are located close to each other. While your confidence in the staff is very important, remember that a higher cost does not always equal a better service.

Purchase pet health insurance. This will add a bit on to your monthly budget, but will be a lifeline in an emergency situation, and could mean the difference between keeping or losing your companion.

cat looking at a mouse
photo credit: cloud_nine via photopin cc

Access low-cost services where available. The Toronto Humane Society offers low-cost vaccination and spay/neuter services, with special prices for individuals receiving a government subsidy. Keeping your pet up to date on their vaccines and ensuring they have been spayed or neutered will reduce the likelihood of them falling ill due to a preventable disease.

Brush their teeth. A major veterinary expense is dental care. Do your best to reduce or eliminate the need for a dental cleaning by keeping your pet’s mouth in shape at home.

Not everyone has the means to own a pet, and you should never take on the responsibility for an animal if you are not able to provide for its care, but using these tips might make pet ownership in reach for you and your family.

Be sure to check out our resources page for more information on how to have a pet on a budget and remember to brag about the animal(s) in your life on our Facebook page

Mark Koning: how our dogs helped with my mom’s ABI recovery

Every animal lover knows pets play a very special role in our lives. This story by Mark Koning is the first in a series where Brain Injury Blog TO will explore the relationships we have with our animal companions, as ABI survivors and caregivers.


I am what you would call, ‘a dog person’. I believe dogs are awesome pets. Forget about man’s best friend, how about a valuable family member? Great ambassador, hero, protector, therapist and motivator.

Growing up, dogs were always around by means of relatives and / or friends. But me and my immediate family, we had no pets … well, we did have goldfish. It wasn’t until 1998 that Casey (a Dachshund, a.k.a. a wiener dog) was adopted into our clan when she was two-years-old. We sadly lost her to cancer ten years later. We now have Petey, (an American Staffordshire) almost ten-years of age, brought to us through the OSPCA in 2005.

Casey left her mark, and Petey has already made a similar impact as well. I refer to all of the above, but specifically to the ‘therapist and motivator’ role.

My mom sustained her brain injury in 2001. She had fallen and a blood clot formed, forever changing all of our lives. After successful surgery that removed the clot and allowed oxygen to flow once again, she remained in a coma for the better part of a month. When she came out of it she could barely move, she could not talk, and the overwhelming depression made any further recovery seem hopeless.

When the doctors heard about Casey, they not only allowed me and my sister to bring her for visits, they encouraged it. My mom lit up being reunited with Casey, the cuddling and licking kick started a whole new determination. When she returned home the inspirations continued as Casey would sit there and watch therapy nurses (speech, cognitive and physical) come in and work with my mom.

Petey has now taken over, and while my mom has come a long way, there is still a journey ahead which the dog will be right by her side in taking. He watches out for her, he slows her down when it is needed, and he helps her speech. No, he does not engage in conversation with her, (imagine what that would be like) but he patiently sits there and listens as she speaks (and organizes) her thoughts.

I was a dog person before my mom’s tragedy, and now I am a dog champion. As short as a canine’s life may be in comparison to ours, (a sad fact) they do their best, in spite of tragedy, to help ours continue and shine. It makes a dog’s value, priceless!

Do you love to brag about your pet? Enter our pet photo contest on Facebook! Tell us about the animal (s) in your life + what they mean to you!