I recently read this amazing and very heart-warming story about a severely disabled man who was practically in a vegetative state until he was figuratively brought back to the land of the living by a dog. Allen Parton is a former British Royal Navy officer, who has featured in a TV documentary and in a lot of newspaper and magazine articles, because of his relationship with his "wonder dog" Endal (in the accompanying picture).
Allen suffered a severe head injury when on active service during the first Gulf War, and is now confined to a wheelchair. Initially, he was unable to speak and was left without the ability to experience emotions. He couldn't recognise his wife or their two children and he twice attempted suicide. He spent five years in hospital whilst trying to come to terms with his disabilities.
The turning point in his tragic situation came when he met a yellow labrador called Endal. He had gone along to a dog rescue centre with his wife who had applied to volunteer for them. He was just sort of tagging along, and could not join in because he couldn't talk or engage with people. He was left alone in his wheelchair in the corner, when the 1-year-old puppy, Endal, started trying to play with him, and kept trying, despite no initial response! Allen says:
"He saw something beside my wheelchair and picked it up and put it on my lap, expecting a treat. I didn't react, which really hacked him off, so then he started putting more and more items on me! Just before I completely disappeared under a pile of stuff, my brain switched on and I smiled." (Quoted in an interview with TV Times magazine).
He took Endal back home with him the same day, and through the dog he learned to communicate with the world again and complete normal daily tasks. Endal learned thousands of hand signal commands, for example if Allen touched his head the dog knew he wanted his hat and would go to fetch it. He (the dog) could post letters and even operate a cashpoint machine. Apparently Allen also used to take him to the pub, and Endal would take his wallet to the bar and bark until he got served!
The relationship he had with Endal helped Allen to reconnect with his feelings and rebuild his family life. Allen says:
"He made me laugh again, when before I didn't have that emotion."
Sadly Endal had to be put to sleep in 2009 due to old age and illness, and Allen says movingly:
"He gave me the final piece of the emotional puzzle, which was sadness, because I cried for the first time since I had been injured. That was his last gift to me."
Allen now has a new helper dog and has set up this charity Hounds for Heroes, which provides trained assistance dogs to injured servicemen and women.
I am sure you will agree it is a touching story, but not at all surprising, since we have organisations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and Hearing Dogs for the Deaf (and I am sure there are others of the same kind). These helper animals really are a lifeline to people with disabilities, and it demonstrates the uniquely interdependent relationship between humans and animals.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Your votes and comments are appreciated.
Picture courtesy of www.ivyvillacompany.com