This is Risas; he was given his name because he laughs a lot. He had to wait quite a while for his forever home but finally he found loving new owners and a warm basket. Risas is ecstatically happy now. His new family has a big garden where he can run and play and he gets taken for long walks in the woods.
But what he finds even more fun is his training. Because lovely, intelligent Risas is going to become an assistance dog, helping disabled people to live full lives. Already he’s been to the grocery store where he learnt to open the cabinets where the snacks are kept. He enjoyed it very much and his new dad is very proud of him.
Doing the shopping
Risas will start his full training In January. And he’ll become one of a group of very special dogs. Dogs who help people who have been hurt or are disabled to lead full lives. There are hearing dogs, guide dogs, dogs who assist people with epilepsy, dogs who can even detect cancers. Man’s best friend – in every sense of the word.
One of the latest organisations training assistance dogs is Hounds for Heroes, set up by Allen Parton in 2010. Allen was badly injured in a road accident, while serving in the Gulf War. Paralysed and brain damaged, at times he doubted he would survive, mentally or physically. His savior was Endal, an extraordinary Labrador, from the charity Canine Partners, which provides assistance dogs to those with long-term disabilities.
Although he’d completed his basic training, Endal had a joint condition that prevented him being an official assistance dog. However, when Allen attended a puppy training session at Canine Partners with his wife, a volunteer, he took a strong liking to Allen. Quite simply, says Allen ‘he gave me back my life.’
Allen with the Hounds for Heroes team
Endal not only helped Allen do the everyday things like getting dressed and doing the shopping but he helped him to communicate again. And this in turn helped Allen’s family to be a family once more. Now Allen is helping transform the lives of other injured and disabled men and women from the Armed Forces and emergency services. There are just six canine cadets at the moment; each will cost £20,000 over its working life.
'People forget that, even when the guns go quiet, the battle with disability is just beginning for so many,' said Allen. The Armed Forces are fully behind the charity and donations are coming in thick and fast. There’s already a waiting list of 50. All member of the British Armed Forces or the emergency services are eligible provided that they would benefit from a dog, physically or mentally.
Monty, Colonel, Flanders, Yomper and Juno
The charity’s first dogs include Juno, named after a D-Day beach, Flanders from the World War I battlefield, Colonel after local hero Colonel David Sime, and Monty after Field Marshal Montgomery.
Although Endal died in March 2009 when he was 13, the effect he’s had on Allen is obvious lasting. ‘Endal gave me the final gift when he died,’ he says. ‘It was the first time I’d cried since 1991. He made me feel again.’ Allen now has another faithful companion. EJ, short for Endal Junior, took over from Endal and is also helping to train the next generation of Hounds For Heroes.
The facts about Allen Parton and Hounds for Heroes were taken from The Daily Mail where you can read the full story. And from Allen and Sandra Parton’s book about Endal, which can be found on Amazon. It became an international bestseller – and is now being turned into a Hollywood movie.
All photographs, except that of Risas and the cadet puppies, are the copyright of Jenny Goodall. The photo of the cadet puppies is the copyright of Tim Rose.