Best friends and life­savers

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

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 taken 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 the play.

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