Six rescues graduate as life-changing assistance dogs

Six of our happily rehomed dogs recently celebrated graduating at Service Dogs UK annual accreditation event.

Assistance dog with a veteran
6th December 2022

The super six assistance dogs have now formed life-changing partnerships with veterans from the Armed Forces and Emergency Services living with post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 
Service Dogs UK runs a programme where carefully selected rescue dogs are partnered with a veteran. We’re proud to have a wonderful partnership with Service Dogs UK, with over 30 of our dogs becoming assistance dogs through the programme since 2015.
Once they’ve been adopted, the helpful hounds go into the home of an experienced foster carer before beginning their journey with a veteran. This year’s successful graduates all came from two of our rehoming centres: Salisbury and Newbury.   

For up to 12 months, the veteran and their new dog work together to train and bond with the ultimate aim of successfully completing the programme to become a fully-fledged assistance dog partnership. The dogs typically assist by waking their handler from nightmares, fetching medication, interrupting anxiety attacks and depressive behaviours, taking them to the nearest exit when overwhelmed and positioning themselves to provide tactile comfort and support when needed.   

Lee and Barkley graduating
We see veterans change before our eyes as they go through the challenging but rewarding programme. There is a real sense of ‘saving each other’ as the veteran and dog work together as a team towards accreditation. The training is a hugely positive experience for both, especially when there is that eureka moment and the unique and special bond is made.Veterans who previously struggled to go out of the house and have any social contact, now with an assistance dog by their side, find they can meet with others. It is a new and bright beginning.

Garry Botterill, Founder and Operational Director of Service Dogs UK

Successful partnerships that graduated: 

A veteran and his assistance dog hug on a beach

Lee (from Hampshire) and Labrador/cross Barkley

Barkley was fostered by Dogs Trust Salisbury Centre Manager Claire, who soon realised what a lovely calm boy he was, even with the feline member of the household.  

Speaking about Barkley, his Labrador cross, Lee said: “He’s changed my life because I don’t feel I can die now, I’ve got to be here to look after him.  The work of Service Dogs UK is incredible, without the charity I don’t know where I would be.  They have given me my life back.” 

Rich (from Hampshire) and Terrier Molly

Molly is a small dog with a big personality.  She was in a foster home while in the care of Dogs Trust Salisbury where her potential was quickly spotted.   
Bill (from Bridport, Dorset) and Crossbreed Patch

Five-year-old Patch was transferred into the care of Dogs Trust Salisbury from Dogs Trust Bridgend.  
Patrick (from Axminster, Devon) and Labrador Dottie

Dottie was handed into Dogs Trust Bridgend, along with her friend Bella, by a member of the public before being transferred to Dogs Trust Salisbury. Both Labradors, now aged three years old, were adopted by SDUK. 

Sadly, two veterans missed the dinner, but both spoke about their successful partnerships: 

Martin the veteran with his assistance dog Ollie

Martin, from Sussex, is an Army Veteran who served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment

He has been partnered with cocker spaniel Ollie who was handed into the care of Dogs Trust Salisbury by a member of the public.   
Martin said: “My assistance dog Ollie has helped transform my life, no doubt about it.” 
Lee (from Tiverton in Devon) and Lurcher cross Rio

Rio was adopted when he was just 10 months old from Dogs Trust Newbury. The team at Newbury could see Rio had huge potential – all he needed was someone to help him flourish providing an outlet for his boundless energy.  
Speaking about Rio, Lee said: “I’m much more confident going out and about now like going to the shops or a cafe with less panic attacks.  Rio and I are a team, neither of us is going to give up on the other.  He’s got my back, I’ve got his, and Service Dogs UK are there for both of us.”  

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