The first labrador-puppy recruits to the charity Hounds for Heroes have been sent for their two-year training, in which they will learn to work washing machines and Oyster cards, post letters and even do basic first aid for their injured war-veteran owners.
The charity’s founder, Allen Parton, a former naval officer, suffered a serious head injury during the Gulf War; he lost his memory, spent five years in hospital and is wheelchair-bound, but his life changed when he acquired a brilliantly clever yellow labrador, Endal. The dog, who was awarded the Dickin Medal, could respond to 100 commands, and once put Mr Parton in the recovery position and fetched his mobile phone before fetching help after his owner had been knocked unconscious by a car.
Mr Parton now has Endal’s successor, EJ (Endal Junior). ‘He does amazing things for me,’ says Mr Parton. ‘He can work a chip-and-pin machine, call a lift at Waterloo station and fetch the air hostess on a plane. When we go to the pub on a Friday night, he goes up to the bar and barks to get me a drink. He has given me my independence back.’
He recalls: ‘After my accident, I told my wife to put me in a home and move on, but five years ago, we got remarried and, thanks to EJ, she’s able to go out and leave me with him. Now, I want to do the same for other injured servicemen because, although they might have left the war zone, their battle with disability is only just beginning.’
It costs about £20,000 to train a dog. Hounds for Heroes, which was formed in April, has raised its first £100,000 through the Puppies on Parade Appeal. ‘The response has been amazing,’ says Mr Parton. ‘The other day, we received £44 from soldiers on the frontline in Helmand who held a no-swear day.’ If you can help with training, or would like to donate, telephone 01730 823118 or visit www.houndsforheroes.com
Country Life for Christmas and save up to 40%