Deni veteran trains a helpful Young Digger for his friend
When Wayne Dunbar’s Huntaway kelpie had an ‘‘affair’’ with the black retriever next door to his Deniliquin home, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The resulting puppy, ‘Zeus’, ended up showing such promise in his training that Mr Dunbar decided to turn him in to an assistance dog.
It was all done in conjunction with the Young Diggers Dog Squad program, which specifically trains dogs to provide companionship and assistance to service personnel with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Once Zeus had completed basic training, Mr Dunbar gifted him to his friend and former army comrade Don Hughes.
‘‘I started the training and once I got Zeus to the right level, I rang Don and said he should come to Deniliquin because I had a gift for him,’’ Mr Dunbar said.
‘‘I have always trained dogs, but this is the first time I have trained one for this purpose.
‘‘A lot of people come out of the service in a very different mental state than when they entered. They can often get lonely, and a dog like Zeus is one companion that never changes.
‘‘He has fit in to Don’s family well, bonding with his wife Michelle and their three chil- dren. Zeus has changed Don’s life.’’
Zeus has also been of great help to Mr Dunbar since he fractured his leg earlier this year.
‘‘Don wanted to come and see how I was after I fractured my leg, and he asked if I would like to see Zeus,’’ Mr Dunbar said.
‘‘Zeus was popular each morning at Deniliquin Hospital. One morning he wasn’t with me and all the staff asked after him.’’
Zeus is also popular at the repatriation hospitals and other venues Mr Hughes visits throughout Victoria to promote the Young Diggers Dog Squad program.
Mr Hughes retired as an Army engineer with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
He served in Mindi, Papua New Guinea doing reconstruction work for the Papua New Guinea government.
He was also part of the United Nations de-mining team which aided in Mozambique, Africa being the first area to be free of mines and led the assistance following the tsunami in Banda Aceh in 2004, including work to purify the water.
Wayne Dunbar and his Army buddy Don Hughes with ‘Zeus’, who Wayne specifically trained as an assistance dog for his friend.