Royal Navy Veteran Allen Parton was struggling to recover from a serious head injury sustained in 1991 whilst he was on active duty.
After five years of treatment and still unable to walk or talk and with significant memory loss, a chance encounter with a young Labrador called Endal at an assistance dog training centre was transformative: “he got me to smile for the first time since the accident” Allen said. He applied to be partnered with Endal who became his constant companion in 1998 and helped Allen cope with his disability, rediscover his speech and restore his relationship with his family.
Their life together inspired Allen and his wife, Sandra, to set up Hounds for Heroes in 2010. The initial aim was to raise £100,000 to train five puppies as assistance dogs for injured and disabled personnel of HM Armed Forces and Emergency Services.
What Allen was particularly keen to do was to reach out to the ex-service community in a language and style Veterans understood, and to remove any financial responsibility of caring for an assistance dog.
“He is always enabling me. Where my disability is my weakness, he steps in and becomes my absolute strength” - Allen on his current assistance dog ET (Endal the Third)
Allen reminds us that ‘when the guns fall silent on the battlefield the battle with disability, trauma and bereavement begins for so many’.
In addition to funding the purchase and training, Hounds for Heroes pay for the whole working life of each dog to avoid financial burden on the Veteran. It’s a huge responsibility: the cost per dog over a working life of ten years is around £51,500. Funding comes exclusively through donations and the team ensures that there are always sufficient reserves to fund the support of its existing dogs and prepare for successor dogs.
So far, 28 dogs have been trained and placed with partners. This occurs after two years training by the Hounds for Heroes team, near Petersfield. During that period, the dogs are looked after by ‘puppy parents’ who look after them in a domestic setting and bring them into the centre to learn the advanced skills that they will require. Puppies graduate from the obedience skills, lead walking and recall drills to more advanced work in a domestic setting such as fetching items from cupboards, helping with dressing and undressing, opening and closing doors, and raising the alarm in the event of an emergency. Outside the home they become accustomed to working in noisy environments, developing wheelchair skills, using public transport and even paying for items with a smart card.
The dog training team of four aim to have eight puppies in training per year in two “squadrons” of four.
Allen is keen to spread the word so that Veterans know this support is available.
You can donate directly to Hounds for Heroes or for just £10 pcm you can support them via Veterans Raffle