WHEN Allen Parton returned from the first Gulf War with a catastophric brain injury, his wife had to teach him about their life as his memory had been wiped.
A car crash while on duty as a Royal Naval Chief Petty Officer led to him being treated in hospital back in England for five years.
He was in a wheelchair, unable to read, write, walk or talk.
Allen was “in a pit of despair” and he attempted suicide twice. Then help came his way in the form of three amazing assistance dogs: Endal, Endal Junior and Rookie. They inspired him to launch a charity helping other injured service personnel. It was called Hounds For Heroes and celebrates its tenth year this month.
Allen, 60, of Clanfield, Hants, said: “After I was injured I didn’t know what day of the week it was. I needed help to do basic things. I couldn’t even talk, read or write and I found that so hard. I had two major attempts of suicide, not cries for help, but the endgame, because I didn’t want to go on.”
But with the help of the support dogs along with his wife Sandra, 60, and children Zoe, 33, and Liam 34, he “learned to live again”. Allen met his first dog — an 11-month-old Labrador pup called Endal — by chance. His daycare bus did not turn up so he accompanied Sandra to her volunteer role working with assistance dogs.
Allen said: “A crazy, yellow ball of fluff bounced into my life that day called Endal. He wouldn’t leave me alone and by the end of the day I knew we would be inseparable. He dragged me out from that terrible pit of despair I’d been in.”
Endal became his assistance dog and Allen used more than 100 signs to communicate with him, such as touching his chin for him to bring him a razor and his head for a hat. Over time and with intensive rehabilitation, Allen’s speech returned. He said: “As I learned to speak again so Endal adapted with me.”
During the next 13 years together, the dog helped him with operating traffic lights, lift buttons, shopping and even withdrawing at cashpoints. In 2008 Allen welcomed a second dog, EJ, so Endal could enjoy a semi-retirement. And after Endal died the following year, EJ took over full-time.
Today, the 13-year-old dog can perform more than 500 tasks to help Allen with his day-to-day life, including tapping his Oyster travel card.
He is even trained to save Allen if he falls unconscious in the bath, by pulling the plug and using his mouth to keep Allen’s head above water. He said: “While my memories from before the accident are still very much lost to me, our family with our dogs have rebuilt a new life.”
Rookie, an eight-year-old golden retriever, who is used to assess the needs of prospective new owners for Hounds For Heroes, also lives with the family as a pet.
Allen said: “Everyone thinks that when the guns go quiet in the battlefield the battle with disability and trauma ends, but it doesn’t. Dogs have a huge part to play in that rehabilitation — and my three incredible dogs are proof that they really are man’s best friend.”
Star of the week
MEET MAX the moggy who was left with one eye and half a tail after using up most of his nine lives.
The puss suffered from advanced conjunctivitis, which never cleared up with antibiotics and eventually infected the core of his eyeball, so it had to be removed.
In his remaining eye he has glaucoma – where the optic nerve is damaged – so is almost blind. Most of his tail was bitten off during a fight with a fox in his garden and he’s had numerous near misses and scrapes.
His owner, Dan Bermingham-Shaw, 25, of London, said: “More often than not, Max is bumping into things, but he’s still a character.
“He might look pretty scary, but he is a very happy cat.”
Sean McCormack, head vet at the tailored food firm tails.com
JOSH HENNING, 26 has a Persian cat named Fluffy who loves to bring mice and spiders into the family home.
Q: Why does my cat bring in dead animals to the kitchen after she’s been out for a wander? Does she think I can’t hunt for myself?
Fluffy loves you and wants to share delicious treats as a gift. This is natural for cats, from parental instincts. It is usually more common in female cats but both sexes will do it.
A: Unfortunately, cats who are good hunters can be really harmful to local wildlife. If you want to reduce the number of animals killed and brought home, a good idea is to keep her in at night, dawn and dusk when most wildlife is active. And instead of fitting one bell to her collar, fit two. Many cats learn to stalk prey silently, with a single bell, but find it much harder with two.
KATIE MASSEY, 31, of Whitton, South West London takes her six-year-old Husky Trixie out every day for her walk, but she loves to cause a commotion with other dogs.
Q: Do dogs have different ‘languages’? Can they understand each other when they howl and bark? I think sometimes that Trixie is misunderstood.
A: Dogs very definitely have their own language. One of the reasons we often misinterpret their behaviour and emotions is that we try to explain their behaviour using our own language.
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Howling is in every dog’s vocab-ulary, but certain breeds are more prone to doing it, like Huskies and Malamutes.
Generally it’s a rallying call when other dogs are around, and everyone is excited.
Trixie’s probably saying: “Come on guys, let’s get this party started.”
Or sometimes, if she’s a little nervous of some of the dogs in the group, she may be seeking reass-urance from the familiar ones that she’s not alone.
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