MS patient stranded after dog's death
Mobility dog Duke was Margaret Cameron's lifeline.
But his sudden death - possibly the result of rat poison - has left the multiple sclerosis patient and her husband Bruce alone to cope without his help.
The highly trained golden labrador died a week ago today and his Howick-based owners are bamboozled as to how it happened.
Their vet told them he is 95 per cent sure that raw rat poison was the culprit.
Duke arrived five years ago and immediately brightened his new companion's life.
Margaret Cameron remembers the day she dropped her purse in a shop and watched as about 10 coins spilled on to the floor.
She says Duke picked them up individually with his tongue - one of many talents displayed by a dog trained to respond to 90 individual commands.
The former school teacher says she now feels as though she has been pushed to the edge of a cliff and asked to jump off.
"I have noticed where before I could actually get through the day without having to have a rest, already the past couple of days I'm wiped out."
The Camerons don't have any rat poison and don't know if or how it may have found its way into their fully fenced backyard.
Bruce Cameron says they found Duke lying on their lawn on June 13 and rushed him to the vet after he struggled to get to his feet.
The police and SPCA are investigating.
Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust general manager Jody Wilson says it takes about $50,000 and two years to turn a puppy into a mobility dog.
The charity has trained more than 50 dogs for people with physical impairments since it formed in 2003.
This is the only case of suspected poisoning.
"It is a real tragedy - not just for Bruce and Margaret, but for the trust," Wilson says. "We have lost one of our really good dogs."
Wilson says the charity gets no government funding but the labradors and golden retrievers it trains are constant companions for clients and give them a sense of security.
They can do everything from opening and closing doors and drawers to picking up items, answering the phone and pushing medical alarms.
"You can imagine if you've got restricted function, anything really that assists you in your day-to-day life is fantastic."
Go to mobilitydogs.co.nz for more information about the trust and its mobility dogs programme.