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Charlotte meets new helpmate

Last updated 05:00 12/02/2014
Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman
PATIENT PUP: Eighteen-month-old Mia waits with no problem as Charlotte stops in Ostend Reserve during their first walk together.

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Quadruple amputee Charlotte Cleverley-Bisman may have just met the love of her 10-year-old life.

She is getting to know black labrador/retriever pup Mia in preparation for a day when they could be together for good.

Eighteen-month-old Mia is completing training as an assistance dog to be potentially paired with Charlotte at her Ostend home.

Assistance Dogs New Zealand founder Julie Hancox and internationally certified trainer Tracy Huff brought Mia over from their Hamilton base.

They wanted to see how the pair got on and assess future training needs.

Charlotte had portions of all her limbs amputated when she was six months old and battling meningococcal meningitis.

Her mum Pam Cleverley says the session with Mia went well and the dog's willingness to do the job is just what's needed to make her daughter's life easier.

"She'll put washing in a front loader and we got her to get the prosthetic pants out of Char's bag. Char's instructions were good and solid.

"It's about how to train Mia from here."

Pam says they will be doing a hospital trip with Tracy and the dog some time soon and will be talking to Waiheke Primary School about a classroom visit before that.

Tracy will have to tailor Mia's training in Hamilton before the dog can become a permanent fixture in the Cleverley household.

Julie Hancox says the training will be important but Charlotte must keep it up once she becomes Mia's owner - otherwise skills will be lost.

She says someone of Charlotte's age won't be loading washing machines but the dog can provide a range of equally helpful services.

They include retrieval, picking things up, holding doors open for the wheelchair, helping as a counterweight for walking balance and offering an incentive to complete physio sessions by giving high fives with her paw.

But Julie believes one of the main benefits for Charlotte will come from having a special and constant companion during her teenage years.

Assistance Dogs animals are government certified like Blind Foundation guide dogs, allowing them into all public buildings.

"Being able to take the dog everywhere is important," Julie says.

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