A WOMAN left unable to walk due to a rare blood disorder has been given a new lease of life thanks to her dog.
Jane Bennett will be at Tamworth’s Ankerside Shopping Centre on March 19 to talk about how black labrador Chico has transformed her life.
She will also be helping to raise awareness of the Canine Partners charity, which partners people with physical disabilities with assistance dogs.
Chico is trained to do many tasks including retrieving products from supermarket shelves and putting them in the basket on Jane’s lap, as well as passing her purse to the sales assistant at the till.
Jane, who has used a wheelchair after a rare blood disorder left her unable to walk 21 years ago, also takes Chico with her when she volunteers at a local primary school and goes to church.
“Chico widens my horizons every day and I can’t imagine life without him,”
said Jane of Atherstone, Warwickshire, who is an active member of St Peter’s church, Mancetter.
“He is able to pick things up if I drop them as well as open the washing machine, take out wet clothes and put them in the drier.
“He takes my jacket off, as well as shoes and gloves and if I have a fall or other emergency, he knows to pass me my phone. He has become a bit of a celebrity in the area and when I receive Christmas cards they are addressed to Chico and Jane!”
Ankerside Shopping Centre deputy manager Jeff Wigley said:
“Canine Partners is an incredible charity doing fantastic work to help people with disabilities lead fuller, more independent lives.
“We are more than happy to host the event on March 18 and hope as many people as possible will visit the information stand and find out more about Canine Partners and how their dogs like Chico have helped to transform people’s lives.
“This is one of many events involving local charities that we host and we would like to hear from other organisations interested in a stand, to make more people aware of their work.”
Jane read about Canine Partners in a magazine while waiting for a hospital appointment and contacted the charity to find out more. After undergoing rigorous assessments and special training over several months she was paired with her first assistance dog Forge, who later had to be retired early due to ill health.
She was partnered with Chico three and a half years ago and the pair are now inseparable.
“Having an assistance dog gives me so much confidence and independence and I can never thank Canine Partners enough,” said Jane, who lives with her partner and carer Mike.
“I try to do all I can to raise awareness and funds and let people know there are many ways to help such as donating used postage stamps and unwanted mobile phones.”
Canine Partners is a registered charity that trains assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities including civilians and members of HM Armed Forces. The dogs are trained to help with everyday tasks such as opening and shutting doors, pressing buttons and switches and getting help in an emergency.
Mark Richardson, chair of Canine Partners said:
“As well as helping practically the dogs increase independence, confidence and self-esteem and bring companionship, a sense of security and increased social interaction.
“We are really grateful to Jane for the work she is doing to raise awareness of Canine Partners which receives no government funding and relies solely on public donations.”
Open daily, Ankerside is home to 60 stores, from fashion, health and beauty to services and food and drink, and has more than 700 parking spaces. More details at www.ankerside.co.uk