Valour is first to help Parkinson's sufferer
Valour is an apt name for this bundle of velvety fur.
He's a 3-year-old black labrador who spent his puppyhood training for a career as a service dog.
Valour was originally destined to be a guide dog. Trouble is, Valour likes to walk along beside you, and a blind person really needs their dog to lead from the front.
So he was transferred to the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust. General manager Jody Hogan was only too pleased to take him on.
"It's a great thing when agencies work together," she says.
Valour is now making history as the first service dog in New Zealand to work with a person who has Parkinson's disease.
Alan Reid of Remuera was diagnosed 10 years ago. His symptoms have progressed to the point where he has trouble getting down stairs. The dog walks beside him and acts as a brace.
"I use him like a handrail. I can grab on to him," Mr Reid says.
Valour can also retrieve the telephone or the TV remote and help Mr Reid get up if he falls. He helps Mr Reid cross the road too.
"I have difficulty with it. My brain tells me it's not safe and I hesitate. Whereas I can say to Valour ‘Let's go' and he just takes off."
Valour wears his Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust jacket when he's working. Mr Reid says when the jacket comes off, the friendly pup is like any other. He loves a good run around with other dogs in an off-leash park.
It's been quite an adjustment for a family that has never owned a dog before but the Reids say Valour is a welcome addition.
"The cats don't like him much but they've come to terms with it slowly."
Mr Reid first heard about mobility dogs at a Parkinson's meeting.
PhD student Helen Spence of Remuera was there with her dog Chance. Helen works part-time for the trust and her thesis is about using dogs in support of people with movement disorders. She spoke to Mr Reid about the benefits and he and Valour are now part of her research.
See mobilitydogs.co.nz or phone 833 8233.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Have the new speed limit rules made you change your driving habits?