Puppy Poppy Picnic celebrates grant success

Canine Partners Advanced Trainers Stephen Rigby, left, with Gino, and Mike Garner with Higgins, celebrate the Royal British Legion grant with charity trustee Jon Flint with Varick
Canine Partners Advanced Trainers Stephen Rigby, left, with Gino, and Mike Garner with Higgins, celebrate the Royal British Legion grant with charity trustee Jon Flint with Varick

National assistance dog charity Canine Partners held a ‘Poppy Picnic’ today to celebrate a grant from The Royal British Legion, the nation’s leading Armed Forces charity.

Canine Partners is a national charity that trains assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities including civilians and members of HM Armed Forces.

The event at Canine Partner’s National Training Centre in Midhurst celebrated a Legion grant of £21,350 to support the roles of the Chief Executive and Aftercare Supervisor in their work with ex-Service personnel.

At the event, the dogs demonstrated their training with skills such as opening and closing doors, unloading the washing machine, picking up dropped items, pressing buttons and switches and getting help in an emergency. Their skills help to increase the independence, confidence and self-esteem of their partners, and provide companionship, a sense of security and increased social interaction.

Following the demonstration the dogs were treated to a ‘Poppy Picnic’ in support of The Royal British Legion’s new summer fundraising campaign.

Former Royal Marine Jon Flint, who is a Canine Partners trustee and a Legion beneficiary, was partnered with his canine partner, Varick, a black retriever, in July last year.

Jon was a lance corporal for more than 13 years with operational tours in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was during night training exercises on the Isle of Skye that Jon fell and broke his back. However it took more than ten years for the true extent of his injuries to become clear and in 2006 he left the service.

He said: “It seems that without the constant military training my muscles had started to relax and the fracture started to mobilise. It took another two years, three further hospitals and two major surgeries before all the damage in my back had been diagnosed correctly.

“Until I was partnered with Varick I would hate to leave the house. One of the symptoms of my injuries is that I have poor balance so if people knock into me it won’t take much to make me fall. People don’t realise I am disabled and so I can be very vulnerable in crowds.”

He added: “Varick has changed my life since we were partnered. I have the confidence to go out on my own again. And you can’t put a price on how people respond to my disability now, thanks to him.

“Varick has helped to show me that I can still be independent and not have to rely on family and friends to do small things.”

Sue Freeth, Director of Operations at The Royal British Legion, said: “Every year, we give £8 million to charities who share our aim of safeguarding the welfare of members of the Armed Forces, past and present, and their dependents.

“We are delighted to be supporting Canine Partners in recognition of the great work that they do with the serving and ex-Service community.”

Canine Partners Chief Executive, Andy Cook, expressed his thanks for the grant from The Royal British Legion and said: “Through this generosity we will be able to continue to help and support the men and women of the British Armed Forces and through our aftercare team, continue that assistance throughout their partnerships.”

Canine Partners receives no government funding and relies solely on public donations. For further information visit www.caninepartners.org.uk or phone 08456 580480.
Contributed by Canine Partners