Understatement of the Year

I took Lomax to our vet this evening for a look at what I thought was a hot spot on his tail. It’s nothing serious, don’t worry — it just turned out to be a cut or scrape that got out of hand. I didn’t see anything happen, he never yelped that I know of, and I didn’t notice it because the hair on his tail is so thick.

Anyway, the point: as Lomax is at the vet, being poked and prodded and examined, he is wiggling furiously. With great joy. As always. He’s got a nasty cut on his tail, but that doesn’t stop said tail from whipping and wagging. With great joy. As always. And I am attempting to hold him still so the doc can get a look at the affected area.

As Mr. Exuberance is busy licking my face and folding himself in half in order to snort in Dr. Liebl’s face, the doc says to me:

“Happy little guy, isn’t he?”

Yes. Yes, he is.

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5 responses to “Understatement of the Year

  1. haha! Awww that’s so cute! Petey sends you and Lomax some kisses and butt wiggles =)

  2. Oh I so hope he gives all that happy love to someone who appreciates him as much as you. I worry about these things, even though I know Guide Dogs loves the dogs more than I do and they match them to people based on personalities. Silly me – I just need to watch the episode of “Dogs with Jobs” about Endal the yellow Lab in the UK and I know everything will turn out the way it should. I think I’ve seen that one 5 times and every time, I cry.

  3. You’re killin’ me, Julia! :)I haven’t seen Endal…although now might not be the best time for me to go looking for it, considering my emotional state.I’m sure wherever Lomax goes, he will find joy and love and happiness. I like to say that “he brings the party with him.” And I’ve been praying with all my might that whoever ends up with him will love him even more than I do.

  4. Hi thereAllen and Endal here and our story pasted below in two partsParto one quite historicENDAL AND ALLEN1 The Japanese television crew watched, cameras whirling, as Endal, the yellow Labrador leaped up at the cash machine and, with his mouth, ‘handed’ the credit card and a wadge of £1O notes to his master, 42 year old Allen Parton. ‘That’s amazing,’ said producer Masaki Mochizuki from Super Television, one of Japan’s national television networks. ‘What else can he do?’ 2 Endal was keen to show him. Back at Allen’s home in Clanfield, Hampshire, he opened the washing machine with his nose, pulled out several pairs of socks, carefully dropping them into the laundry basket ready to hang on the line. Then, on command, he opened a kitchen cupboard, tugging at a purple cord hanging from the handle, and nosed out a packet of cereal, carrying it in his mouth to Allen in his wheelchair. Finally, he sat on the chair at the kitchen table, while Allen had breakfast, ready to ‘hand’ him anything if he needed it. 3 Four years earlier, however, when Endal was born, no one thought that this lonely little puppy was particularly special. If anything, he was something of a misfit since his parents, who were owned by a Southampton breeder, were father and daughter. Not realising that the bitch was still in season, they put her in with her father only to discover soon afterwards, that she was pregnant. Such pregnancies can fail to develop or result in sickly or ill-formed pups. Amazingly, Endal, the only puppy in the litter, seemed perfectly normal. Even so, his owners, Barry and Sue Edwards did not know what to do with him. Unable to register him because of his parentage, they considered keeping him as a pet until a month later when Canine Partners for Independence, visited to inspect another litter.4 ‘ I happened to walk into the room and saw this very pretty puppy sitting all on his own,’ recalls Nina Bondarenko, programme director for CPI. ‘ I said, ‘Hello little yellow chap, what’s the matter with you?’. Then I asked if I could put him through the aptitude tests that we set dogs, to see if they would be suitable assistants for people who need help.’5 These tests are a series of simple exercises to measure each dog’s interest in people, co-operation, and flexibility. Nina started by placing Endal on his back to see if he licked rather than struggled. He did the former, which was a sign that he was adaptable and calm.. Nina also put Endal in another room, which he didn’t know so well, while she hid. The puppy sat and thought for a while and then started to search for her. This was exactly what Nina had been hoping he would do because it suggested he had initiative and wanted to be with people.. Nina also gave him a spoon and then called him to her. Instead of hanging on to the spoon, he handed it over – another good sign. On the other hand, he wasn’t very enthusiastic. He did some of these things rather half-heartedly as if he was saying ‘ Well I’ll do it if you want but it is a bit of a bore.’ Nina could also tell that he was sensitive and not the bravest dog in the universe; when she held him in the air, his body went rigid and he tucked his tail under. Nina’s instinct (which she has learned to rely on during her 30 years experience) told her that even if Endal wasn’t as keen as she hoped, he would be right one day for someone. 1 So the CPI bought him from the breeder Barry Edwards and found Judith Turner, a 52-year-old dog-owner to act as his puppy parent or ‘foster mother’. Judith had recently lost her 12-year-old black Labrador Fennel to cancer; when the CPI rang her up, she felt ready to take on a new challenge. What she quickly realised, was that Endal whom the CPI had named after a local vet, was a one-woman dog. Although he remained aloof during training sessions at the centre, he absolutely adored Judith and would lick her all over every time he saw her – even if she’d only walked out of the room for a few seconds! Judith lost count of the number of earrings she lost as a result of Endal’s enthusiastic licks, which sent them flying across the room! ‘He kept me on the straight and narrow after Fennel’s death and would do absolutely anything for me . However, there was one big problem. Endal hated us leaving him alone at night and would get upset when we left him in his basket downstairs. Then, by chance, we thought of leaving a nightlight on. From that night on, he slept like a baby – he’d simply been scared of the dark! We also bought him a huge pink teddy bear to cuddle up to.’2 Endal quickly became adept at jobs such as finding keys and taking off Judith’s jacket. But his sensitive and loving personality also shone through when he was off-duty. ‘ He would play with the swallows in the field outside,’ recalls Judith. ‘ I’ve never seen anything like it. They would swoop down low and he would lift up his head to them just like a Disney cartoon. When I took him to a local village concert, he tried to out-sing the chief tenor by howling above him! He also adored the smell of port. At Christmas, we came downstairs to find he had opened a bottle of port with his teeth but left it standing upright on the carpet, without having spilt one drop. He had just wanted to sniff it one more time!’3 Yet as Endal continued to do his training at the centre with his former half-hearted attitude, Nina couldn’t help thinking there was something missing. Somehow, despite his obvious intelligence, the dog lacked dynamism and didn’t seem to sparkle. It was as though he was waiting for something or someone to happen in life in order to release his full potential. Endal was also the kind of puppy who was choosy about who he bonded with. When, as part of his training, he did a three week swap with another family to help him adapt to different environments, Endal took a while to adjust. Although he did what he was told, he also closed down and withdrew into himself. Nina began to realise that she needed to find him a full-time partner whom he could really relate to, just as he had bonded with Judith. If she couldn’t find the right person, Endal would never find his full potential and for an intelligent dog, that seemed a great waste.4 There was also another added complication. Endal was showing signs of going lame. ‘ Puppies often do this, on and off, as part of their growing process while their bones knit together,’ explained Nina. ‘ It’s known as panosteitis, like growing pains in children. But it was happening too often to Endal so we had him x-rayed. The results showed that he might have osteochondritis dessicans (OCD), a fault in the elbow joint. Some dogs get better on their own accord but others get worse and have to be operated on which would mean they wouldn’t be able to work. We weren’t sure with Endal. He seemed too good a dog to waste but at the same time, his future was seriously in doubt. So we decided to rest him and see what happened.’Meanwhile, only five miles away, the future was looking even more bleak for 42 year old Allen Parton. In I99I, Allen, then a weapons electronics officer in the Royal Navy, had waved goodbye 1 to his wife Sandra and their two children Liam and Zoe, age six and five, to fight in the Gulf War. As they set off, Allen and his men had been told that I5 per cent of them wouldn’t come back. But like many brave servicemen, he was certain this wouldn’t apply to him. After all, he’d already served in the Falklands and Northern Ireland and come out unscathed. Why should his luck run out this time ?2 But it did. Within a month of arriving, Allen’s military car was smashed up in a serious accident, which shattered both his body and mind for ever. His first memory was waking up in a British hospital six weeks later and thinking, ‘ Where am I ?’. His right-hand side had lost all feeling and he had lost 50 per cent of his memory. The effects were catastrophic. Allen couldn’t recognise family or friends, let alone remember the names for items like ‘bed’. He only knew Sandra was his wife because the nurses would say ‘Your wife is here’. Even more terrifying, he couldn’t recall getting married or having the children. In a flash – literally – Allen had gone from a healthy father of two to an angry, wheelchair bound invalid who couldn’t talk properly and whose words spilled out of his mouth in a haphazard, disorderly fashion without making sense.3 ‘ The fear and shock made me furious,’ admits Allen. ‘I refused to accept I was disabled and I’m ashamed to say that I was horrible and rude to everyone.’ He was also plunged into a deep, fathomless depression from which there seemed no escape. Twice, he tried to commit suicide. It was, he told himself, the only way out.4 Allen spent the next five years in hospital and rehabilitation. When he finally came home, Sandra, who had had to give up her job as a nurse to look after her husband, was at her wits’ end. Then she saw an article about the CPI in a local newspaper. Desperate to do something for herself, as well as looking after Allen, she became a puppy walker to Ferdy, a yellow Labrador. The distraction and light-relief provided by a lively puppy in the house, helped the whole family – even though Allen still found it difficult to talk and communicate.5 One day, in the summer of I997, Allen’s usual bus for his day centre failed to turn up. Sandra told him in no uncertain terms, that she wasn’t prepared to have him moping around the house. He would have to go to the CPI centre with her. Although he didn’t see it then, Fate had just stepped in. Allen’s life was about to change in as almost a dramatic way as his accident. But as he sat in the training centre that morning, in his wheelchair parked in the corner of the room, refusing to speak or join in, Allen didn’t realise this. Instead, he would rebuff anyone who tried to ask him a question, by telling them to talk to his wife. He felt horribly self-conscious and it was easy to see why. Not only was he unable to speak clearly but his body was continually twitching. He refused to make eye contact with anyone but was very self-conscious and uncomfortable.6 Not far away from his chair, sat a group of puppies, resting in between training sessions. One of them, happened to be Endal. ‘ He started looking at Allen and as he did so, Allen glanced back,’ said Nina who is constantly observing dogs and thinking about the applicants to see if they might fit. ” Endal then looked up again and seemed to say ‘ Mmm, I quite like you’ and then Allen put his hand down to give him a pat. Immediately, Endal leaped up on Allen’s lap and gave a big slobbery grin. Allen smiled as though to say ,‘ This dog really likes me !’. Then, almost without knowing why he was doing it, Allen began to rub Endal under his jacket. It so happens that Endal LOVES being rubbed at exactly that spot. He looked up at Allen as if to say ‘ You are my man!’ “1 It was nothing short of a miracle; a dramatic turning point which both Allen and Endal had needed so badly in their lives. And it sent, says Nina, a tingle down her spine. As Allen left the centre that day, there was a certain sparkle in his eyes, which hadn’t been there for a very long time. He could hardly wait until the next week when Endal was coming back to the centre with his puppy walker. Allen made sure that he was there too and over the next few weeks, Endal made a beeline for him as soon as he came in through the door. The two would sit next to each other and Endal would reach out and touch him with his paw. As Nina point out, until he met Allen, Endal hadn’t been anything special. It was the combination of his character with Allen’s that made the winning ticket. Two parts really are greater than the whole.2 Just as Endal had helped Judith through her bereavement so, it seemed that Endal wanted to now help Allen. Even so, it wouldn’t have been right for Nina to have suggested that Allen and Endal were partnered immediately. She had to wait until Allen applied for a dog himself. 3 It took just one week for the assessment procedures and paperwork to go through.’ I had to fill in a form, describing my disabilities and this was the first time I had admitted there was something wrong with me,’ recalls Allen. ‘It was a cathartic experience, which finally gave me the hope I needed. Until I met him, I was in the depths of despair. But when he refused to leave my side in that training centre, I suddenly saw a chink of light. Endal had found me and wasn’t going to let me go. He was living proof that angels don’t just come on two legs.’4 Three months after Allen had taken Endal home, it became apparent that Endal was doing the work of a fully trained assistance dog, teaching himself to do the important tasks that enabled Allen to function and regain his independence. So it was proposed that Endal and Allen went on one week of an intensive two-week residential training course. This would allow Endal to qualify as a fully fledged Canine Partner and wear the cherished jacket, “his badge of office”. During that time, Nina noticed a dramatic change in Endal’s behaviour. ‘ Instead of doing jobs half-heartedly, he’d leap to it! Keys, he’d say, you want me to get keys? Great. Hang on and I’ll run and get them. Before, when someone else was asking him to do it, he’d amble over to the keys and back again without any great incentive. In return, he seemed to understand how much Allen had been through. He’s an interesting combination of pushiness and sensitivity.’5 Endal’s most amazing skill is his ability to use his initiative and read situations quickly. This was exactly what Allen needed to help him cope with his severe injuries. Would Endal be able to help? They would soon find out when he joined the Parton household full-time in autumn I997. Still unable to speak properly, Allen also suffered from word blindness when he simply couldn’t find the words to give Endal a command. ‘ One morning, I realised I’d left my razor upstairs. I could see a picture of the razor in my head but couldn’t think of the word. So I just patted my cheeks in an attempt to understand. To my amazement, he ran up the stairs and came down with it in its leather case. ‘6 Over the ensuing months, Allen and Endal began to create their own sign language. A pat on the head means that Allen wants his cap. Instantly, Endal darts round to the back of the wheelchair where the cap is inside Allen’s bag. Hands held up mean gloves are required and Endal finds them and brings them round the front to Allen.1 Allen and Endal began to photographed by local newspapers, and then, as they grew in confidence, they were nominated for an award in a National competition run by Dogs Today magazine. During one photographic session, Endal and Allen went shopping at the local supermarket to show how Endal could differentiate between ‘tins’ and ‘bottles’ and nose out whatever Allen asks for on the shelves, such as a loaf of bread. As they were leaving, Allen realised he needed money from the cash machine outside.With the sunlight shining on the glass screen , making it difficult for Allen to see, and with the money and receipt slot set far up the back of the machine, Allen was struggling. Suddnely, without being asked, Endal jumped up to retrieve the card and money when Allen had made his transaction.2 Newspaper photographers asked him to do it again and again so they could get their pictures. This was the photograph that was used when Endal was voted Dog of the Millennium in the Dogs Today competition. The result was Endal, splashed over nearly every front page. The press went wild and reporters from around the world wanted to know about this extraordinary dog. He was filmed by crews almost daily. People started to recognise the yellow Labrador as “Endal the Cashpoint Dog”.3 But the most amazing example of Endal’s initiative happened in May 2001 when the pair were invited to a stand at Crufts. After checking into the hotel the night before, Allen took Endal outside for a run across a green on the other side of the hotel car park. As usual his lead was clipped to the chair. Suddenly a Ford car reversed towards them at 40 mph. Endal was between Allen and the car so, instinctively, he pushed the dog out of the way. Seconds later, the car knocked the chair over and Allen blacked out. When he came round, he found Endal pulling his body over, using his teeth on his jacket, to put Allen into the recovery position. The dog then ran back for his mobile phone, which he got out of the bag, and thrust against his face. After that, he went back for his blanket from the chair and then ran up to the hotel reception, barking for help.4 The story hit the national headlines. Endal, it appeared, was the first dog who had ever put a human into the recovery position, without being taught. Once again he was a familiar face on the television and in the news. Everyone wanted footage of this remarkable dog. But the fame came at a price. Endal had overstretched himself by jumping up at the cashpoint so many times. And the following day, he went severely lame during a fund-raising event.5 Allen’s world was crashing down around him once again. A lame dog would be unable to fulfil his work properly and could even be taken off the CPI programme to be re-homed as a pet. Allen and Endal were in severe danger of losing each other unless they could do something about it. Determined to do something, Allen and Sandra visited several vets, all of whom agreed that strict rest was needed. However, this was difficult as Endal refused to leave Allen’s side. When he left the room, so did the dog. Going upstairs exacerbated the lameness worse ; Allen had always refused a stairlift, preferring to be independent and get up and down on his bottom. So the only option was to shut Endal in the kitchen at night in an attempt to make him rest.In the morning, however, the Partons found that Endal had jumped up and down the kitchen work surface and eaten one kilogram of rabbit food from its bag. ‘ It was as though he was doing it to attract attention and say ‘ How dare you shut me out?’ said Allen. He also had the swing bin lid round his neck, which could have been dangerous. There was only one solution to ensure strict bed rest; and that was the kennels. Allen, in floods of tears, was unable to take Endal himself so Alison, one of the CPI trainers, volunteered.For two weeks, Endal had to stay in a very small cage, which limited his movement. He had one short break and that was to the vet. Meanwhile, Allen admitted that he was acting like a bear with a sore head. ‘ I was angry with everyone and behaving like a child. By the end of two weeks, Endal was still limping. The vet said that he might get better but he might not.’Endal came back for the afternoon but Allen confessed that he was unable to cope with the uncertainty. ‘ If he came home and then had to go again, because of his health problems, it would have destroyed me. So Heather, the CPI training manager, took Endal to her home for the night and put him back in kennels the following morning.Neither, however, had reckoned on Endal’s determination not to give up- or Sandra’s. Furious with her husband, this feisty 42 year old ex-nurse told him to stop being so selfish and to think of someone else instead of himself – that person, of course was Endal. She told him, in no uncertain words, that the dog needed him badly at this moment in his life but that Allen wasn’t there for him. It was the best thing she could have said. Unable to drive himself, because of his disability, Allen leapt into action. He asked Alison to collect Endal from the kennels for him and bring him home, where he belonged. Even if he ended up limping for the rest of his life, Allen pledged to himself that he would be there to take away his hurt and pain ; just as Endal would do for him.Endal came home, his tail wagging energetically with excitement. He and Allen were now a ‘marriage’ for better or for worse. During the next few months, Endal was put on a strict diet of additive-free meat and cereal to help his arthritis along with a gentle exercise regime and a quiet period to heal. Slowly, he has continued to improve and , although Endal has bad days like Allen, the arthritis appears to be under control.Meanwhile, miraculously, Allen’s speech was improving dramatically and his twitching had almost stopped. Indeed, to hear him now, it’s hard to believe that it was almost incomprehensible, despite five years of speech therapy. Neither Allen nor Sandra are certain how Endal achieved this although Allen thinks it was because he desperately wanted to talk back to a dog who obviously loved him so much. Even more touching, Endal talks too. A dog normally only has eight different voice patterns but Endal has twenty. According to the tone, they mean all kinds of things, ranging from ‘ I love you’ to ‘ Can’t we switch television channels?’ (His favourite programmes involve anything with animals in it.)Allen lifts Endal on to his knee to tickle his huge tummy and demonstrate how he ‘talks’. Endal looks up at his master adoringly and howls with pleasure. The noise is so loud that I half expect someone to know on Allen’s front door to see what’s going on. In fact, the neighbours are used to it. Allen and his dog are well known in Clanfield. Because of his poor memory, which means Allen can usually only remember things for forty-eight hours, he also forgets people’s names and faces. Before Endal came into his life, Allen was too embarrassed to go out much or talk to friends who could remember him even though he had no idea who they were. ‘ Now, they come up to talk about Endal and even if I don’t know who they are, Endal provides a talking point. They stroke and chat which helps me to socialise again.’Endal has also helped Allen’s marriage and the relationship with his children Liam, now I6 and Zoe, I5. ‘ They all love him even though Endal very obviously prefers me! He sleeps on my side of the bed, touching my wheelchair with his paw. And when Sandra and I sit on the sofa, watching television, he jumps up between us.’Sandra, an amazing woman who has put up with more than most wives would cope with, accepts this. ‘ Life will never be the same gain but thanks to Endal, Allen has a second chance – and so do we. Out of 80 seriously injured married men in the Gulf War, only eight marriages survived. Ours is one of them. The children lost their old dad but now Endal has given them a new one.’Allen and Endal’s daily routine illustrates this. Endal wakes Allen every morning, without fail, at 7 am – even when he wants a lie-in. Sometimes Allen tries to keep his eyes closed, pretending he’s asleep, but one small gesture to signify otherwise, and Endal is on the bed ! He pulls the wheelchair towards Allen’s side, using the purple cord, which hangs from the back for this purpose. Everything that needs opening in the Parton household has a ‘tug’ on it like this; purple is Endal’s favourite colour. Endal will then put up the loo seat for Allen, using his nose and, like a typical male, fails to put it down again after use ! He then helps Allen dress, by opening his underwear drawer and pulling out clean socks and pants. Although there are obvious limits on how far Endal can ‘dress’ Allen, he can master hand him clothes and even manage zips on cardigans.Downstairs, following Allen on his bottom, Allen will say ‘ cereal ‘ and Endal will open a floor level cupboard and nose out a packet of cereal which he hands to his master in the chair. All this helps Sandra who will be getting herself ready for work as a puppy walker at the CPI centre. During the morning, Allen will either go with Sandra to the centre to talk to other possible dog recipients or he’ll answer Endal’s e-mails which average 50 to IOO every day, often as a spin-off from Endal’s own website. Together, they also manage basic household tasks such as tidying up the sitting room, turning off lights, collecting the post and putting food back in the cupboard.Towards lunch, the couple often amble down to the local shop where Endal in his red coat and Allen in his chair, are a familiar sight. Using his nose, Endal proves to be as good a shopper as any housewife. ‘ Soup!’ commands Allen and on cue, Endal will nose out a tin of tomato (one of Allen’s favourite) to hand to his master. One day, at a photoshoot, Allen was meant to have asked him for rolls but, being word blind at times, said ‘ bread’ instead. Endal glanced at him and then at the crew and went to the end of the aisle and got the bread like a true professional! Sometimes, as a treat, Allen will ask Endal to ‘pick’ a Lucky Dip card. So far he’s won £ 40….While crossing the road, Endal will sit firmly on the pavement if a car is coming, to prevent his master from crossing. Allen’s short-term memory means that he can forget to look and the first time that Endal refused to budge, Allen thought he was being difficult. Then he realised. Endal was trying to warn him that a red car had just come round the roundabout. The car had in fact stopped for the pair but another one might have carried on. At the chemist, Allen will often wait outside in his chair while Endal goes in, wallet in his mouth, to collect Allen’s prescription. In fact, Endal is Allen’s best medicine as shown when passers-by pause to admire his beautiful golden coat and permanent grin. ‘ He breaks the ice,’ explains Allen. ‘ Before he came into my life, I wouldn’t talk to people. But I’d have to be pretty miserable to ignore someone who likes my dog.’.Back for lunch and Endal will hand Allen a plate of sandwiches, which Sandra has, made him earlier. In the afternoon, it’s off to the park to play or perhaps catch up on a bit of television. If one of Allen’s legs happens to slip out of his chair, Endal will gently pick up the trousers hem in his mouth and put it back.At least once a week, if not more, Allen and Endal will make guest appearances on television or charity events. During the last one and a half years, Endal – ever the willing performer – has entertained 98 film crews and is possibly, CPI’s most famous dog. Endal has also won a string of awards including Dog of the Millennium, Golden Bonio dog of the Year, Assistance Dog of the Year 2001 and Pro-dog Dog of the Year Gold Medal. He has been on television from Japan to Australia including the States and Canada’s ‘ Dogs with Jobs’.But besides relishing the spotlight, Endal has a kind heart and an uncanny knack for spotting people needing special help. He is particularly good at bringing out autistic children and during a recent trip, made a little boy smile for the very first time. Just as miraculous, he met a five year old girl with cerebral palsy. Allen, scared that Endal might knock her over with an over-enthusiastic lick, asked her to sit up straight in her wheelchair instead of leaning to one side. ‘ She can’t do that on her own,’ said her mother – and then stopped in amazement. Her daughter, desperate to see this ‘miracle dog’ , had managed to ease herself into an upright position so she could cradle Endal in her arms. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.Allen, who started public speaking I8 months ago, also visits injured men and women who are still coming to terms with their disabilities. One of his toughest watersheds was to go back to RAF Headly Court, the Epson-based military rehabilitation centre where Allen had been in dark depths of despair, after the accident. ‘ I couldn’t have walked through those doors without Endal but when we did, it was as though I had exorcised all my demons.’ There, Allen and Endal met a young man who was paralysed from his head downwards after jumping into a swimming pool ‘ That was me, ten years ago,’ said Allen. ‘ So I told him about Endal and the joy he had brought me. Hopefully, that man will find his own ‘Endal’ in life. I also hope my experience will help people find their own canine partners.’No one, however, could be exactly like Endal. Not only is he intelligent and perceptive but he also has character. Take his daily walk to the shops when, after being released from lead to sniff the local green, he simply had to dash off to sniff a cat. Then there was last Christmas, when he simply couldn’t resist helping himself to a few turkey titbits by opening the fridge door. Weekly weighing sessions on Monday, however, ensure that Endal is not allowed too many illicit snacks. If he’s a jot over his average weight of 31 kilograms, it’s smaller portions to make sure that he’s fit enough to do his job. Thankfully, Endal’s arthritis seems to be going through a good patch although he has regular six-month check ups at the vet. Endal himself hates to be parted from Allen. When he and Sandra took a skiing holiday recently, Endal had to go to kennels. As Allen picked him up, he gave him a muted lick but as soon as they got home and closed the front door, he leaped up at him with slobbery kisses. ‘ Men like us dislike public shows of affection!’ jokes Allen.Endal is also a well-seasoned traveller and a regular on British Rail when travelling with Allen to charity events or television studios. BR reserves two seats for him and once, when delayed at Waterloo, he put on an impromptu show of fetching and carrying for commuters who were reluctant to go, even when their train arrived.But what about the future? ‘Most CPI dogs retire after about ten years but I’m going to ask if I can keep him,’ says Allen firmly. ‘ I couldn’t imagine another dog. After all, he’s my Be All and End All.’ Update!Sandra and Allen have since gotten re married, Allen said “ I at long last feel the final bit of the puzzle is now in place. I now feel married to this very special lady whom I have fallen in love with again. Endal was my best man”. Endal also has received the PDSA Gold Medal, the animal George cross for saving Allen’s life.His citation read for Devotion to Duty and Animal BraveryEndal has been awarded a Gold Blue Peter Badge (the second dog to receive this honour)Allen and Endal where both awarded a Life Time achievement award at the Wag and Bone Show 2004The total number of Film crews from all around the world that have filmed Endal total 302Part two quite newPURE GOLDWhen Endal, a quiet, unassuming yellow Labrador, won PDSA’s Gold Medal in 2003, it was another remarkable episode in a remarkable life. We tell his story here and that of the man whose world he helped to transform.On a late autumn day in 2002, a Labrador, smart in a purple jacket, his intelligence shining through in his bright-eyed alertness, stood attentively beside a man in a wheelchair. Before them a ceremony was taking place. The assembled guests were told how, after the man had been knocked from his wheelchair by a reversing car, the dog rolled his companion’s unconscious form into the recovery position, draped a blanket over him, nudged his mobile phone close to his face and then went to fetch help. Actions that many people might not have had the composure and the calm sense of purpose to carry out. Afterwards, HRH Princess Alexandra presented the Labrador with the PDSA’s Gold Medal, awarded to animals that have shown outstanding devotion to their duties in time of peace. For his astonishing response to the accident, he became one of only three dogs to receive the Medal since its introduction. The dog’s name was Endal; his companion was Allen Parton. What had brought them together, and what had brought them to this ceremony, were a series of events that were as despairing as, eventually, they were hope-filled.A lifetime lostWhen Allen Parton, a weapons electronics officer in the Royal Navy, waved goodbye to his wife, Sandra, and their two children, Liam and Zoe, he was also bidding farewell to life as he had known it. It was 1991, and Allen was heading out to the Gulf War. He was, of course, fully aware of the dangers that lay ahead; but he was equally sure that experience and good fortune would see him return home untouched and unharmed. Allen was wrong; Allen got unlucky. A month after he arrived, his military car was wrecked in an accident and Allen’s body with it. He woke six weeks later in a British military hospital, his right hand side devoid of feeling and his mind even number. His memory had been so horribly obliterated by the injuries he sustained that he was unable to recognise Sandra and had no recollection of his marriage or his children. He had to be introduced to his family. The simplest of words – bed, chair – deserted him. He spoke, if at all, as he remembered: in disjointed, meaningless fragments. Imprisoned by his wheelchair, trapped by his fumbling speech, and dispossessed of his own past, Allen saw no reason to have faith in the future. Twice he tried to take his own life. After five years of hospitalisation and rehabilitation, Allen at last returned to his home in Hampshire, a stranger to the person he had once been, and raging at his fate. By his own admission, Allen was all too willing to share his anger and bitterness with those around him. “I refused to accept I was disabled and I’m ashamed to say I was pretty much horrible to everyone,” he admitted.An encounterSandra, who gave up her job as a nurse to care for Allen, had volunteered as a puppy walker for Canine Partners, an organisation that trains dogs to help disabled people enjoy a greater degree of independence. One morning, in the summer of 1997, the bus that had been due to ferry Allen to the day centre he attended failed to turn up. Rather than leave her husband to brood at home, Sandra took Allen with her to the Canine Partners training centre. There Allen sat, his wheelchair parked in a corner, as self-conscious and withdrawn as he always was in public. Until, that is, his eye caught a young dog, resting from a training session. The dog wandered over to the wheelchair, accepted Allen’s offer of a welcoming pat on the head and promptly dived on to his lap. It was Endal. Allen’s life was about to emerge from night and into the sun.A partnership is bornEveryone saw that there was a clear and instant bond between Endal and Allen, something instinctive and rooted in the way they interpreted each other’s needs. After a few more meetings between the two – it was difficult to tell who anticipated Allen’s visits to the training centre the more – Allen decided to apply to take Endal as an assistance dog. It was only while the forms were being completed that Allen understood and accepted the importance of the psychological step he was taking: “I had to describe my disabilities and this was the first time I had admitted there was something wrong with me. It was a cathartic experience. Until I met Endal, I was in the depths of despair. Now I suddenly saw a chink of light.”Life begins anewWith Allen still struggling as much with his word recollection as his mobility, Endal’s ability to read the sign language with which Allen was sometimes forced to communicate was central to their relationship. A pat on Allen’s head meant, and was understood as, “fetch my cap”. A touch on Allen’s cheek and Endal was off to bring him his razor case. Hands held up? A second later Allen’s gloves appeared. ‘Tugs’ were added to everything – doors, cupboards, clothes drawers, the toilet seat – in the Parton house that needed opening or closing or lifting so that Endal could help Allen get dressed, wash and manage the domestic chores. Endal was soon as adept at shopping as he was around the house. Allen simply issued the appropriate instructions from his wheelchair – cereal, soup, tins of tomatoes, bread – and Endal would unfailingly nose it from the shelf and drop it into the shopping basket. He even helped to pay. Once Allen had tapped in his PIN, Endal would gently retrieve the money and card from the cash dispenser. The differences that Endal brought to Allen’s everyday world weren’t just practical, however impressive his abilities to sniff out a bargain at the supermarket. They were therapeutic too. Where five years of intensive speech coaching had seen little progress, Allen’s urge to talk to Endal mean that he was becoming ever more articulate, his vocabulary as broad as it was before the accident. Once Allen, embarrassed at his inability to remember words let alone names, would shy from social contact. Now Endal gave him the confidence to re-engage with the world that once had felt so alien and intimidating. “Endal provides a talking point,” explained Allen. “People stroke and chat about him which helps me to socialise.” Perhaps most importantly of all, Endal restored Allen to his family, allowing him the emotional strength needed to rediscover and renew the bonds of human love. “Life will never be the same again but, thanks to Endal, Allen has a second chance,” said Sandra. “As do we. The children lost their old dad but Endal has given them a new one.” Recently, Allen and Sandra took their wedding vows again.FameA dog as talented as Endal is a difficult secret to keep. His prowess at the cash machine was spotted by a journalist from a national newspaper. After that the media floodgates opened wide. Reporters and film crews from around the world have queued up to watch and marvel as Endal, wallet in mouth, picks up Allen’s prescription at the chemist’s or operates the electronic doors on a train. What really threw the spotlight on Endal, however, was the story of the heroics for which he was awarded the PDSA’s Gold Medal. Invited to attend a stand at Crufts in 2001, the pair had been exercising in the car park afterwards when the vehicle, unseen by Allen until the last second, struck him and threw him from his wheelchair. Endal’s resolve and quiet control made headline news and won him that most prestigious of animal awards.The futureEndal is now nine years old. There will come a time when he will be too old to carry out his duties, however strong and faithful the urge to do so. When that happens, Allen will be there to look after him, repaying what he acknowledges to be an unrepayable debt. The day in the car park that saw Endal save Allen’s life by grasping his coat and pulling him, unconscious, into the recovery position was truly remarkable. What is almost as remarkable is that Endal has been saving Allen’s life, precious piece by precious piece, each and every day, before and since. warmest regardsAllen and Endal

  5. Hi againyou can find some pictures of our partnership at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pandeva/sets/972371/. It is a shame when we came out to the ADI conference in San Diego in January this year we missed out on meeting up. My wife Sandra runs the puppy walking/parent department for canine partners UK. We took some time out and had four days in LA did the Disney thing etc so was nice to see your puppy class being held therewarmest regardsAllen and Endal http://www.endal.co.uk

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