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June 2014 Archives

June 21, 2014

Amazing dogs, human partners

Last Sunday was Assistance Dog Day at the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh, and I went along to find out more. First I went for a blindfolded walk, guided mainly by a trainee guide dog, which was a strangely enlightening experience. Then I saw and heard about Casper, a Medical Alert Dog of extraordinary talent who can detect blood sugar levels in his partner human, and will alert her even if either or both of them is asleep. Sue Surbey has Type 1 diabetes and without his prompting, she had been suffering frequent blackouts.

Assistance dogs are highly trained, present no health risks and carry identity paperwork. To avoid disability discrimination, they should be permitted in restaurants and other places (such as the Royal Botanic Garden) where pet dogs are not normally allowed. Sadly, despite all this, Sue Surbey has been driven to take legal action against a restaurant that wouldn't let Casper in. It'll be a good test case for the Equality Act 2010 and I hope she wins. Here is Casper lying obediently at Sue's feet, as he remained throughout her talk and would certainly have been at the restaurant.


Angie Fowler and Dexter demonstrated how hearing dogs for the deaf can overcome the isolation and invisibility of deafness. They alert their partners to everyday sounds such as the doorbell, phone or cooker timer and are also trained to respond to the emergency noise of a smoke or fire alarm. I was so impressed by the way these amazing dogs transform their owner's lives, restoring them to independence and promoting self-esteem through the partnership.

This was eloquently shown in Sally Hyder's demonstration. She developed MS at the early age of 28 while training to be a Macmillan nurse. After a very difficult period, she applied to Canine Partners for an assistance dog and was given Harmony. Harmony has helped the whole family through some very dark times, and has helped Sally to feel "a proper mum again". Harmony picks up things that Sally drops, passes her wallet in the supermarket, loads and unloads the washing machine, undresses her at night and fetches help if she falls out of her wheelchair.

Sally has written a book Finding Harmony which tells the wonderful story of her life and their relationship. Here's Harmony being sent to fetch help, and also pulling Sally's sock off:



Assistance dogs are amazing. Guide dogs for the blind are well-known as the world's largest canine charity, but we are less aware of hearing dogs for the deaf and Canine Partners. The latter are looking for "puppy parents", people to foster, socialise and train puppies for a year or so before they are placed with their final human partner: visit their website to find out more. 

About June 2014

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in June 2014. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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