TAIL WAGGING STORIES FROM CRUFTS
By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall. Tysall’s Photography.
Even though most of the news stories surrounding Crufts following their 2016 event seem to be focused on the German Shepherd issue, which certainly is something that needs looking into, let’s remember that overall this was a superb dog show which tens of thousands of people – and their healthy, happy dogs have thoroughly enjoyed.
It’s worth remember that Crufts is not just about winning prizes for the best dogs, it’s so much more. The show is there for the benefit of the entire dog-loving public. And what I love about Crufts is the opportunity to discover more about the canine charities and organisations that show the amazing bond that we humans can develop with our four-footed friends.
Charities such as Assistance Dogs, Hounds for Heroes, Dogs for Good, PAT Dogs, Hearing Dogs and so many more.
It was a real pleasure to meet Allen Parton the founder of Hounds for Heroes, who with a team of his dedicated volunteers were there raising funds to provide specially trained assistance dogs to injured and disabled men and women of the UK Armed Forces and Emergency Services. It was Allen’s 20th year at Crufts.
The story behind the founding of Hounds for Heroes is an incredible story of a unique partnership of dog and man, which literally was life saving. Back in 1991, Allen a Royal Navy Officer was serving in the Gulf when he suffered a traumatic head injury. The accident left him in hospital for five years. After awaking from a coma he had couldn’t walk, talk, read or write. His memory had gone – he couldn’t recognise his wife, Sandra or his children. He had also lost the ability to feel any emotion.
Life could not have got much worse for Allen and his family, and they were at breaking point. However that all changed when a dog called Endal came into his life.
Allen told me, “The bus taking me to the day centre didn’t turn up one day, so I went in to work with my wife. She was a puppy walker for Canine Partners, and there was this Labrador called Endal who was a failed canine partner. He came alongside my wheelchair and gave me his paw and a big sloppy lick. He just seemed to respond to me as he’s never done with anyone else. After 5 years everybody thought I would never talk again, but Endal taught me to live and love again.”
This wonderful dog, who helped Allen recover the power of speech, and helped get him through those darkest of times, was also awarded the PDSA Gold Medal – for Gallantry and Devotion to Duty, after saving Allen’s life in 2001. Allen was knocked from his wheelchair by a car. Endal dragged him into the recovery position, pulled a blanket over him and ran to a hotel barking for help. “When Endal died,” said Allen, “I rediscovered the emotion of sadness.”
Because of the remarkable partnership between Allen and Endal, Allen founded the charity, Hounds for Heroes, raising money to provide more assistance dogs to help injured and disabled men and women of the UK Armed Forces and Emergency Services. He recognises that it’s not just practical and physical help, but the emotional help, comfort and support a dog gives.
In an earlier quote, Allen said: “Our dogs are designed to enable and enhance – to help service people to live their lives to the full. We want a dog as a friend who can help up keep our dignity in tricky situations – to work with us as a team. To enable us.”
Also on the Hounds for Heroes stand was Penny Barker, a vet at Burghfield and Goring in Berkshire. Penny was working up a sweat on her bicycle as she did her first in a series of fundraising cycle rides ‘Going the Extra Mile’ raising money for Hounds for Heroes and the British Heart Foundation. People were asked to make a donation and guess how many miles she’d cover in the 10 hours, with a chance of winning a great prize. Penny was also planning to Race Across the West – an 880 miles journey and next year she hopes to be doing Race Across America, a 3,000 miles fund raising trek.
Another fairly new charity we discovered at Crufts was Dog A.I.D. which is part of the umbrella organisation of Assistance Dogs. Dog A.I.D. which is run by volunteers, trains the disabled person’s own pet dog in their own home to become qualified assistance dogs.
We talked to Carolyn Greenhalgh who explained that a volunteer trainer comes out to the person’s home. The training is all done at the owner’s pace whether it takes six months or even a couple of years. But it’s all tailored to meet the different needs of the client.
“You might find people have the same disability or illness, but you’ll find that their individual needs will be different,” said Carolyn who was demonstrating the skills of her own dog, a 2 year old American Cocker Spaniel called Loki. “His name means the Norse God of Mischief! And when I take his jacket off he’s a different dog!”
Another member of the volunteer team explained to me that all the training is tailored to the owner’s own dog. It might be a small dog, or a large dog. But they recommend that the dog is under four at the start of the training. There is an assessment first to ensure that the dog will be able to do it, and that it will benefit the owner.
Carolyn continued, “Loki picks anything up for me that I’ve dropped. He empties the washing machine and tumble dryer, completely undresses me, except he can’t undo my bra! But very importantly he identifies paprika and cayenne pepper – which will send me into anaphylaxis shock.”
Carolyn explained that Loki gives her a signal when these substances are around by stamping on her right foot which he does constantly to alert her. “He also brings me the telephone and he has his own house phone, if I am on the floor and cannot get up he fetches the phone for me. He is my carer.
“Also of his own volition he tells me if my blood sugar is low. He picks this up between 3.8 and 4.2 – and tells me. And if I am high, anything over 12, he tells me by sitting sown and staring right at me. He also picks up my crutches – as I have a degenerative spine – he picks his own lead up. He’s only a little dog but can do so much for me. And he loves doing it. His tail never stops wagging.”
The Cinnamon Trust was another incredible charity which is doing a brilliant job. Founded by Mrs Averil Jarvis, she recognised the fact that when a person gets older, they worry about their pet and what will happen to it if they have to go into a care home, or a hospital or the pass away. Sometimes elderly pet lovers will decide not to have another cat or dog when their old faithful has gone, purely out of fear of out-living them. So they lose out on years of companionship. Averil founded the charity which is named after her own beloved Corgi, Cinnamon who passed away aged 17 at the time she was creating this much needed organisation in 1985.
Averil has created two unique home-from-home sanctuaries in Devon and Cornwall, where pets whose owners have died or gone into residential care, can live out their lives in comfort. The charity has also gathered an army of 15,000 community service volunteers who help the elderly with any kind of problem that arises with their pets, from walking the dog to cleaning out the budgie cage if the owner cannot manage it.
They Cinnamon Trust also provides a national fostering service for pets whose owners have to go into hospital. Volunteer foster carers take the pet into their own home until it can be reunited with its owner. Additionally long term care can also be provided for pets whose owners have died or moved into residential accommodation. And whether the owner is separated from their pet for a short while or long term, they are kept in touch through visits if possible, regular photos and letters.
The individual heart warming stories you discover as you wander from stand to stand are quite amazing. Enjoy the photos here of pets and people, and I for one will be looking forward to next year’s Crufts.