At PURINA®, we've been proud supporters of Canine Partners since 2000. To celebrate our long-standing relationship we started a Charity of the Year initiative in 2011, which has now raised over £50,000 for Canine Partners. More than 50 activities from auctions to quiz nights have been organised by PURINA employees to help raise money. Most recently, a team of employees took on the Three Peaks – one of the toughest UK challenges – climbing the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales in just under 27 hours!
We're delighted that four new puppies have now started their training programmes as a direct result of the funds raised. Jupiter, Iggy, Echo and Kibble are all now starting to learn what it takes to succeed as a Canine Partners assistance dog – and no doubt getting up to lots of mischief in the process!
CANINE PARTNER PUPPY ECHO
Echo is a golden retriever puppy that is being socialised with Jill and John, her 'puppy parents', in West Sussex. She lives with John and Jill's own dog and a cat, and Echo gets on very well with them. In fact Echo's relationship with their Burmese cat is very strong, and they are the best of friends. He will go up to Echo and nudge her face with his head until she gives him a lick, then he washes her face and she sits there with her eyes shut looking blissful! Echo also makes John and Jill aware if the cat is outside wanting to come in by sitting by the back door and crying until they open it!
Echo has been progressing in her puppy training and Jill and John are noticing that she is calming down. Echo loves everyone and is becoming much better at not jumping all over them. It is important that she learns to sit nicely and wait for people to say hello to her rather than she leaps up at them. She is still boisterous, inquisitive and very friendly, but she is really growing up and her teenage hooligan periods have decreased considerably!
As she attends weekly puppy classes, Echo has more or less learned most of the basic tasks she needs to, and now it is a case of consolidating them so that they become second nature to her. Her favourite task is picking up dropped items and she will happily do that all day. This is great news as it is probably the task that is most useful to people in a wheelchair. She can now do "waits" and "stays" for a good length of time while John and Jill walk around the room. She has also learned some of the commands and positions around a wheelchair. When out in the field, Echo's recall is excellent and she always comes back to John the minute he whistles or calls her. This is very important for when she is partnered with someone with limited mobility who wouldn't be able to run after her to catch her.
John and Jill take Echo to the local shops and supermarket, and she behaves very well. The only problem is that it now takes twice as long to do the shopping due to all the people who want to stop and say hello! Echo also had her first trip on a bus. She found this a little scary to begin with, as the bus was very crowded, and she stayed close to John. On the return trip the bus was empty so she was much more relaxed. There will be further trips on buses and trains for her to get her used to those situations.
John and Jill have found that Echo is a big television addict, and loves wildlife programmes. She has a bit of difficulty understanding where the animals go to when they disappear off screen, and she peers round the back of the TV to find them. This can ruin John and Jill's enjoyment of a programme to have Echo's head in the way and a nose very close to the screen!
As with all Canine Partners puppies, Echo will soon be going on a puppy swap. She will go to live with another puppy parent for a few weeks and John and Jill will either have another puppy or go on a break. This gets the puppies used to being handled by different people, so that when they come into the training centre for their advanced training, it is not so much of a shock.
Echo's favourite toys are tuggies and balls on a rope. Both these toys will help her in advanced training where she will need to pull on tuggies to get someone out of bed, and balls on rope are used to train the dogs to open doors. Echo is also very happy to rearrange things in the house – collecting objects and bringing them to Jill! Very useful if you want to spring-clean!
As she matures, Echo is turning into a beautiful, intelligent, loving and sociable companion, who will hopefully one day make a wonderful canine partner for someone with a disability.
CANINE PARTNER PUPPY IGGY
Iggy is a black Labrador cross golden retriever puppy that is being socialised with 'puppy parent' Liz, who works with Canine Partners in Bedford. Although Liz and her family have fostered several Canine Partners dogs before, Iggy is their first puppy. He is a few months old and is definitely a character, according to Liz! He has a mind of his own and is very independent. Liz was a bit taken aback at the beginning as he wasn't really taking any notice of her at all, so she has had to work on that to get him to watch her. He is finally getting better at this, but it is something he has had to learn rather than it being an instinct.
Iggy is very sociable, and loves meeting both people and animals. Everyone he meets comments on his lovely soft coat, enormous paws and his huge floppy ears. He is a bright little boy and picked up some commands really quickly including "sit", "leave it", whistle feeding and toileting on command, but other things that she knows he can do such as "wait", "come" and "down" sometimes meet with a varied response! Lots of patience, food rewards and verbal praise are in order at the moment.
Iggy's favourite toys are anything that squeaks and anything that may have treats concealed in it! He also loves textured toys and tuggies. He loves playing with other dogs and with the family in the park, and his favourite activity when he is not playing is sleeping.
When Iggy first arrived with Liz, he hated going in the car and cried during every journey. Liz patiently addressed this by taking him on the school run twice a day and after a few days he got used to it. He even accompanied Liz when she had to sort out a new car and he went along on the test drive and never made a murmur!
For such a young pup, Iggy has shown excellent behaviour in public places, including garden centres, coffee shops and pubs. Liz's proudest moment so far is when he sat quietly during her children's end of term church service and didn't flinch when 300 children filed past him!
Iggy is learning basic core tasks at the moment, and picking up items is one of them. He proved to be exemplary at this on one occasion when he carried Liz's son's boot bag all the way into school. He received lots of admiring looks!
Being a youngster, Iggy has a long way to go before he will be partnered with a disabled person, but he has already learned a lot and is quick to pick things up, so that all bodes well for his future as a canine partner.
To learn more about Canine Partners, visit www.caninepartners.org.uk.