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Wed, 20 January 2021

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How are assistance dogs transforming the lives of people with physical disabilities?

How are assistance dogs transforming the lives of people with physical disabilities?

The National Lottery

3 min read Partner content

Thanks to National Lottery players, clever canines like Valley are helping people with disabilities gain greater confidence and independence.

Living with a rare inherited condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can make even the simplest household tasks a challenge for Vanessa Bobby-Rose. But if the 53-year-old struggles to dry herself after a shower, lift her groceries into the fridge or pull the duvet over her when she goes to bed, her companion, Valencia, is happy to provide a helping hand.

Or, to be more precise, a helping paw. Valencia – or ‘Valley’ as Vanessa calls her – is a dog; a 3-year-old cross between a Labrador and a Golden Retriever. Valley is trained to carry out all manner of tasks from tugging clean clothes out of a washing machine to retrieving her owner’s phone and removing her shoes.

Vanessa said, “She’s changed my life. I don’t know where I’d be without her. She is my constant companion, my helper, my best friend and my world.”

Valley’s amazing skills are the result of a two-year training programme provided by the National Lottery-funded charity Canine Partners. Its mission is to transform the lives of people with physical disabilities by pairing them with an assistance dog that is both a domestic helper and a loyal companion.

Thanks to National Lottery players, clever canines like Valley are helping people with disabilities gain greater confidence and independence.

Vanessa’s condition affects her body’s connective tissue and creates all sorts of challenges. She said, “I dislocate my joints on a daily basis and the condition affects my digestive system and my breathing. I often suffer complete exhaustion because I’m always trying to hold my body together.”

Thanks to National Lottery players, clever canines like Valley are helping people with disabilities gain greater confidence and independence.

When Valley arrived at Vanessa’s home in Colchester in October 2018, the former radiology manager soon realised she had gained both a helper and a friend who would be by her side every minute of the day.

She said, “I start every day with a giggle because Valley helps me get dressed. And at night she helps me get my legs up onto the bed then uses her paws to pull the duvet over me and tuck me in.”

Not all of Valley’s skills were taught to her by Canine Partners. The charity’s assistance dogs learn new tasks depending on their owner’s individual needs.

For Vanessa, drying her back after a shower is particularly difficult because she can easily dislocate a shoulder. Luckily, Valley is a dab hand – or rather dab paw – with a towel. Vanessa said, “She’ll wrap a towel around me, tug one side, then tug the other side until my back is dry.”

Vanessa added, “Everyone I know who has a Canine Partners dog has the perfect companion with the perfect personality. It’s amazing when you get that call to say ‘I think we’ve got the dog for you’.”

             

Thanks to players of The National Lottery, £30 million pounds is raised for Good Causes every week, funding projects across the UK and helping communities come together.

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