Clever dogs nose so much about helping and caring
OONA and Heston are no ordinary dogs ... they are lifelines for people with disabilities.
Canine Partners, a charity which matches trained assistance dogs with people, paid a visit to The Edge coffee shop, in Keelby, to explain its work.
Golden retriever Oona expertly demonstrated how she can fetch washing out of a machine, pull jumpers off, and pick up items from shelves.
Five-month-old golden Labrador Heston is currently in training, and puppy parent Therese Smaller, of Keelby, showed how she is doing this. The process can take up to 14 months to complete.
Therese said: "The dogs are owned by the charity and I get the puppy at seven weeks old. It takes around 14 months to train a dog, and during this time I socialise him in restaurants, shops, buses and then train them to touch, pull and fetch.
"We teach dogs to touch, so they can push buttons such as light switches, to help pull clothing off a person and fetch items out of reach.
"These dogs are trained with a clicker and treats. We train with a clicker because when we pass the dog onto its partner, they will have a different voice.
"Dogs are even trained to know when a person is having an asthma attack, and the dog will automatically fetch an inhaler.
"Heston's training is going very well. He is very relaxed and food orientated which makes him easier to train.
"After his training has finished, I will take him to the assessment centre in Sussex – where he will be watched for three weeks.
"If the dog passes, they will be carefully matched to a partner and it will be trained to match their specific needs."
More than 1.2 million people in the UK use a wheelchair and a significant number of those could benefit from a canine partner.
The charity is now working with disabled people from the Armed Forces and since the charity began in 1990 they have matched more than 300 partnerships across the UK.
Therese is working with her second dog, and said it is heartbreaking when she hands the pooch back to the charity.
"My first dog was called Windslow and after 18 months of training he graduated," she recalled.
"I had to keep a photo album of the dog's life to pass it onto their disabled partner.
"It was a devastating but happy time when Windslow passed his training, and you never lose contact with the dog because the charity always keeps you updated.
"The canine partners help people both physically and psychologically because of the relationship they build."
If you want to donate to the charity, enquire about how to be a puppy parent or want to benefit from an assistance dog, call 08456 580480.
Source: This is Grimbsby