A woman whose life has been transformed by a canine assistance dog brought her along to a meeting of Crewkerne & District U3A, so that members could see how she has helped her. Wheelchair user Ruth attended the meeting with her husband Gary. Ruth needs Delia to help her to cope with a number of disabilities. Most mornings when she wakes up she is paralysed but Delia is trained to knock her arm up and down until her brain kicks in.

Dogs like Delia are specially trained by the charity Canine Partners, to help with everyday tasks such as getting dressed, loading and unloading the washing machine, putting the washing in a basket and then putting it on the washing line. The highly trained dogs can also open doors, lift items from supermarket shelves, assist at ATMs, pull blankets on and off at bedtime, open drawers and switch lights on and off.

Ruth enjoys riding a horse called Starsky at Blackmore Vale Riding for the Disabled Association and when Delia senses that Ruth is getting tired, she barks and the horse stops immediately. Ruth told U3A members: “She is a blessing. She has brought back my confidence so that I can lead a full and active life.” The charity which trained Delia, an eight year old Labradoodle cross Goldendoodle, celebrates its 30th birthday next year. U3A members were so impressed by the work being done by Delia and Canine Partners that a collection for the charity was taken at the meeting in the George Reynolds Centre, with the 100 members present giving generously to raise £188.

Crewkerne & District U3A chairperson Sheila Seymour suggested that members might wish to bring along stamps and old mobile phones on behalf of the charity, beginning at the organisation’s monthly meeting in March. Other members suggested they could organise a coffee morning later in the year and a prize draw. They were advised that if £5,000 is raised towards the training of an assistance dog, there is a chance of naming a puppy. U3A speakers secretary Denise Smith said: “We would be the first organisation in the area to do this.”

Gary who is a volunteer speaker for Canine Partners told members that the charity receives no government funding and relies solely on donations from the public and legacies for the life-transforming work they carry out. He spoke about how the dogs are trained and matched with their partners. About 80 dogs are trained each year, at a cost of £10,000 each for the first two years. The charity’s annual running costs are £3.5 million a year. Gary said: “But consider the cost of human carers and you will see the value of CP dogs. The added bonus is that they provide company 24 hours a day, while a carer’s time is limited. We had never owned a dog before but we would never be without Delia. She has made such a difference to both our lives. My motto is Every Home Should Have One.” To find out more about the charity Canine Partners visit www.caninepartners.org.uk


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