News

Best friends and lifesavers

by
September 13, 2017

Liddell and Tiny are more than just Gwenda Darling’s constant companions.

A medical condition from which she suffers means the small dogs are also important to Gwenda’s health and safety, and the trio have recently made their home in Finley.

Liddell, a Maltese terrier, can warn Gwenda if she is about to have a seizure or fit by tapping her right foot and reminding her to eat or take her medication.

Tiny, a Shih tzu, helps Gwenda if she gets lost when away from home by leading her back safely.

Liddell and Tiny are registered assistance dogs, just like a guide dog for the visually impaired.

But Gwenda said as they’re not easily identified like a labrador guide dog, their importance can often be misunderstood or overlooked.

Retiring to Finley from Newcastle, she wants her new hometown to be aware of her dogs and their role.

‘‘I would describe these dogs as my left hand; they are a part of me.

‘‘Sometimes people want to come and pet the dogs but they have to understand these are working dogs.’’

Gwenda said at the recent Finley Show, she was denied entry to some exhibitions because of her assistance dogs, particularly the sheep pavilion.

But she said registered service dogs are allowed to go anywhere, except intensive care units, operating theatres and quarantined areas.

‘‘I explained to the show secretary what had happened and she was very reassuring and apologetic and even informed me the dogs can go anywhere,’’ she said.

‘‘Even if there is a sign that says ‘no dogs’, such as at a restaurant, people need to understand that if they are refusing service dogs then they are refusing me.

‘‘People need to know there are service dogs for all reasons, not just the blind.

‘‘There are also autism, diabetes and hearing dogs, and their owners don’t look like the stereotypical image the public has of disabled people.

‘‘I need the dogs to enable me to have access and to be social.’’

Gwenda said despite their rocky introduction at the Finley Show, they enjoyed the true country experience it provided for them.

‘‘I wanted the dogs to see the sheep, cows, horses and pigs.

‘‘The dogs were great. They saw a turkey lay an egg and didn’t lose focus on me.’’

Gwenda’s final message is simple: If you see her out and about with Liddell and Tiny, please understand and accept the role they play.

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