Event will make ‘a huge difference’ to many people’s lives

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TAILS were wagging despite the deluges yesterday as hundreds of people turned out for the second annual Bark in the Park.

It’s an event staged by the Southern Co-operative at its headquarters in Lakeside, North Harbour, to raise money for Canine Partners, the firm’s nominated charity.

BEST OF FRIENDS Dave Filmer, from Fareham, with his dog Zack ' a Labradoodle. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132466-2342)

BEST OF FRIENDS Dave Filmer, from Fareham, with his dog Zack ' a Labradoodle. Picture: Malcolm Wells (132466-2342)

It pays to train dogs to help often severely disabled people who otherwise would have little freedom to live how they would like.

The dogs are able to pick things off the floor, answer the front door, get the telephone and even, in some cases, help people get undressed and into bed without the need for a carer.

Wheelchair-user Dave Filmer and his dog Zack were at the event yesterday.

Dave, 43, is a trustee of the charity and credits Zack with saving his life.

He said: ‘I had moved down to Portsmouth from Lancashire for work, and I was in a very dark place, feeling pretty desperate about the situation.

‘I had to rely on my neighbours for help. If I dropped something on the floor there’d be nothing I could do about it until they came to pick it up.

‘That’s when I heard of Canine Partners and I haven’t looked back. Zack does things like emptying the washing machine and moving the basket.

‘He opens doors for me at work and if I have my hands full he’ll call the lift for me.

‘I’d always had to rely on other people, but having Zack has given me the confidence to go out there and get on with life again.’

Yesterday’s event included a walk around the Lakeside lake, classes for the dogs to compete in, and demonstrations from Canine Partners showing what their puppies and dogs are capable of.

Last year’s event raised around £15,000 for the charity, which spends £20,000 to place one dog with someone who needs help and support them afterwards.

Teresa Williams, one of the organising committee for yesterday’s event, said she hoped the partnership could raise £600,000 over its two-year span.

She said: ‘This is a really good opportunity to get people down with their dogs and to promote the charity.’

The charity’s Cat Harvey said: ‘The amount of money we get from this is huge for us, and it’s the biggest partnership we’ve ever had. It makes a huge difference.’