BE­LIEVE IT OR NOT, I AM A WORK­ING DOG

Clever ca­nines and the people who de­pend on them

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Leisa Scott

pho­to­graphic shoot is un­der way, an event that would have most pre-teen girls dancing about in a “look-at-me” frenzy. But the lights and cam­era hold no al­lure for 12-year-old Monique We­gener. She drifts away from the hub­bub into a cor­ner of the court­yard and sits qui­etly, her hand gen­tly pat­ting her dog, Wil­son. The labrador looks at her steadily, then set­tles his big head on her knee. His eyes stay wide open, though. Wil­son is at work.

It might not seem like much, this tiny tableau. But if you'd known Monique three years ago, you'd be amazed at how calm she is with all these strangers around, says her mum, Diane. You'd be amazed that Monique let Diane leave her side to help out with the pho­tog­ra­phy of their friend Marayke Jonkers and Lacey, a golden retriever. Amazed at how much Monique's life has changed since Wil­son be­came her shadow.

Three years ago, Monique's autism was caus­ing her se­vere anx­i­ety and panic at­tacks. She be­came sui­ci­dal and was put on med­i­ca­tion. Diane, 42, a sin­gle mum liv­ing on the Sun­shine Coast, had to with­draw Monique from school and teach her at home. Monique's only real out­let from the paralysing fear that gripped her in pub­lic was swim­ming – fol­low­ing that straight black line in si­lence – but join­ing a squad to test her nat­u­ral gift was a step too far. She took pri­vate lessons in­stead.

Then came Wil­son, trained by Diane to be Monique's guide, com­pan­ion and pro­tec­tor, un­der

WKH SULYDWH FHUWL¿FDWLRQ V\VWHP VHW XS E\ WKH as­sis­tance dog train­ing group, Ca­nine Helpers for the Dis­abled. The labrador took Monique around the pool, to the shops, every­where, re­ally. Monique

JDLQHG FRQ¿GHQFH. +HU QHHG IRU PHGLFDWLRQ

dwin­dled, then stopped. She joined a swim squad. 2Q 0RQGD\, 0RQLTXH ZLOO FRPSHWH LQ WKH ¿UVW RI WHQ UDFHV VKH¶V TXDOL¿HG IRU LQ WKH 1DWLRQDO 3ULPDU\ Schools Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships in Mel­bourne. Wil­son will be with her, wait­ing pool­side.

“Our lives have changed since Wil­son,” says Diane, who had trained dogs be­fore Monique was born and stum­bled onto Ca­nine Helpers while des­per­ately search­ing the in­ter­net for help for her daugh­ter. “There was a time when Monique wouldn't go any­where in the house with­out me. She wouldn't dare go out into the yard on her own at all, now she's happy to go out there as long as Wil­son's there. Do­ing this trip to Mel­bourne is a hu­mungous

WKLQJ IRU XV. +H¶V MXVW EHHQ DQ DEVROXWH FRQ¿GHQFH and in­de­pen­dence booster. It's just been amaz­ing.”

Dogs have been help­ing us out for thou­sands

RI \HDUV. $W ¿UVW, LW ZDV RXWVLGH SXUVXLWV: KXQWLQJ, re­triev­ing, guard­ing, herd­ing. Fast-limbed critters that would re­spond to a farmer's whis­tle, their snouts per­ilously close to the heels of sheep or

cat­tle as they cor­ralled a herd with sheer will and bluff. They'd sniff out people buried in snow and haul them out; fol­low us into war. All for a bowl of

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“Dogs love hav­ing a job to do,” says Dr Michael Archi­nal, a vet­eri­nar­ian based in Can­berra and au­thor of An­i­mal Wis­dom. “They love to know bound­aries and they love con­sis­tency. Over the past 20 to 30 years, we've been se­lect­ing dogs for dif­fer­ent traits, traits that have to do with com­pan­ion­ship and in­tel­li­gence. In the process, they've gone from the ken­nel to the couch.”

The best-known and orig­i­nal as­sis­tance dog is

WKH JXLGH GRJ IRU WKH EOLQG, WKH YHU\ ¿UVW EHLQJ a Ger­man shepherd, not the labrador that is most com­monly used nowa­days. But as man's bond with our ca­nine com­pan­ion has grown, as we have tuned in to their abil­ity to obey com­mands for the mod­ern era – such as load the wash­ing ma­chine, or touch the lift but­ton – they've found a whole new raft of jobs to do. Sev­eral stud­ies world­wide have found

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a con­fus­ing world. Dogs can de­tect if an owner is DERXW WR VXIIHU DQ HSLOHSWLF ¿W, RU LI WKHLU GLDEHWLF PDVWHU ULVNV D K\SRJO\FDHPLF HSLVRGH. 1XUVLQJ homes now have in-house or vis­it­ing dogs to help brighten the res­i­dents' days. Dogs can sniff some

FDQFHUV, D IDFW ZKLFK LV VFLHQWL¿FDOO\ SURYHQ, VD\V Archi­nal for the doubters. In re­cent years, re­turned soldiers with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der or in­juries have been brought back from de­spair by an as­sis­tance dog, the most fa­mous of them all be­ing Bri­tain's En­dal, the “Dog of the Mil­len­nium”.

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and was wheel­chair-bound af­ter serv­ing in the

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in­com­mu­nica­tive, sui­ci­dal and on the brink of di­vorce. Then Par­ton had to ac­com­pany his wife, San­dra, to her job at a dog train­ing cen­tre. That's where he met En­dal, a labrador that was about to be re­tired as an as­sis­tance dog be­cause of a joint con­di­tion. Par­ton sat sul­lenly. En­dal made it his mis­sion to cheer him up. He did not leave Par­ton's side, bring­ing him things, lick­ing him, putting

KLV SDZV RQ 3DUWRQ¶V ODS XQWLO, ¿QDOO\, WKH VROGLHU smiled. “I sud­denly saw a chink of light,” said Par­ton. That was in the late 1990s. En­dal died in 2009 but not be­fore sav­ing his mas­ter again, this time in 2001 when he rolled Par­ton into the re­cov­ery po­si­tion, put a blan­ket over him and ran to a pub bark­ing for help af­ter Par­ton was knocked out of his wheel­chair by a car.

Monique We­gener's friend, Marayke Jonkers, 32, has never known life with­out a wheel­chair but doesn't let that get her down. Her smile lights a room, the mo­ti­va­tional speaker's zest for life not damp­ened by the car ac­ci­dent that left her with para­ple­gia at eight months old. Like Monique,

VKH H[FHOOHG DW VZLPPLQJ, FRPSHWLQJ LQ KHU ¿UVW Par­a­lympics in Syd­ney in 2000. She went on to the next two, win­ning two bronze in Athens, a sil­ver in Bei­jing. Then she re­trained in triathlons, be­com­ing

$XVWUDOLD¶V ¿UVW IHPDOH SDUDWULDWKORQ PHGDOOLVW, WDNLQJ bronze World Cham­pi­onships at the 2010 In­ter­na­tional in Bu­dapest, Triathlon Hun­gary. Union's She LV ¿HUFHO\ LQGHSHQGHQW. ³, WUDYHOOHG WKH ZRUOG, JRLQJ WR GLI¿FXOW-WR-DFFHVV SODFHV OLNH WKH S\UDPLGV [in Egypt] and Pom­peii [in Italy], cart­ing my own bags, do­ing crazy things,” Jonkers says. “So to sud­denly lose that was a big change in my life.”

All the years of elite train­ing had led to Jonkers de­vel­op­ing tho­racic out­let syn­drome, which means her ar­ter­ies and nerves are squashed be­tween her

¿UVW ULE DQG FROODUERQH. /LIWLQJ KHU DUPV DERYH KHU waist or ex­tend­ing them too far out is in­cred­i­bly painful now, and if she overuses them, she can be bed­bound for days. For a per­son used to keep­ing on the go and liv­ing in­de­pen­dently, Jonkers' new OLPLWDWLRQV DUH IUXVWUDWLQJ. 7KDW¶V ZKHUH VZHHW­faced Lacey comes in. If all goes to plan, Lacey will give Jonkers back her free­dom.

LACEY LOOKS SO ADORABLE SIT­TING TALL AND

VWUDLJKW LQ KHU /-SODWH YHVW WKDW LW¶V QR ZRQGHU the young bloke walk­ing past Jonkers' apart­ment build­ing at Ma­roochy­dore is drawn to her. “How you go­ing, fella?” he says, giv­ing Lacey a pat on the head. Jonkers has to in­ter­vene. “Ah, sorry,” she says, “you're not al­lowed to pat her, she's a work­ing dog.”

It hap­pens all the time. Most of us know we shouldn't but many fail touch to these re­sist dogs the temp­ta­tion. while they're Leav­ing on duty them Lacey, alone they're is even still in more train­ing. im­por­tant “She when, gets re­ally like ex­citable when people pat her,” says Jonkers, set­ting off to­wards the shops in her mo­torised chair. Jonkers' beam­ing smile leaves her lips for

WKH ¿UVW WLPH. &RQFHQWUDWLRQ KDV WDNHQ RYHU. 7KLV is tough work; con­trol­ling a chair and a dog when your move­ment is limited, the pave­ment is un­even and your voice is sweet and soft. “I'm try­ing to learn how to be a pack leader but it's a very strange con­cept,” Jonkers says. “I'm not bossy at all.”

“It's not bossy,” coun­sels Andrew Holmes, head trainer with Ca­nine Helpers, who has come along to see how Jonkers' and Lacey's team­work is pro­gress­ing. “It's just be­ing calm and in con­trol. You have to learn to speak dog.” “Yes, I don't speak Lacey yet,” Jonkers says. Lacey, now 25 months old, be­came a rookie

&DQLQH +HOSHU DW 10 PRQWKV DIWHU KHU ¿UVW RZQHUV of­fered her for sale when a new baby ar­rived. Most of the dogs the group trains are res­cue dogs or do­nated pup­pies. Lacey had been priced at $500 but when the own­ers heard where she was bound, they set­tled for $250. Since then, she's been liv­ing and train­ing at the We­gen­ers' be­cause Diane has be­come a Ca­nine Helper trainer – her work with Wil­son was so deft, the vol­un­teer group asked her to join. The re­lin­quish­ing fam­ily will come along to Lacey's grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony, where Diane will UHPRYH KHU /-SODWH FRDW DQG -RQNHUV ZLOO SXW RQ KHU RI¿FLDO DVVLVWDQFH GRJ MDFNHW DQG WDNH KHU KRPH. “So it's a sec­ond chance for Lacey and a brand new start for me,” says Jonkers, who has been in train­ing with Lacey since the start of the year.

/DFH\ YLVLWV KHU ZRXOG-EH RZQHU ZLWK 'LDQH DQG can al­ready put the clothes in the wash­ing ma­chine for Jonkers and pick up things that have fallen on the

ÀRRU. ³,¶YH JHQHUDOO\ MXVW EHHQ OHDYLQJ WKLQJV VR WKDW it be­comes a bit of an ob­sta­cle course around the house,” says Jonkers. “It's not worth me try­ing to pick them up and be­ing stuck in bed. I opened the

FXSERDUG RQFH DQG DOO WKH 7XSSHUZDUH ÀHZ RXW, and Lacey just started pick­ing them up and giv­ing them to me.” Be­fore Lacey grad­u­ates, hope­fully in Oc­to­ber, the duo has to pass a pub­lic ac­cess test, which is what Jonkers is about to trial. Jonkers says she's the one who needs the most train­ing. “At

¿UVW, , KDG WKLV KLJKO\ WUDLQHG GRJ DQG , FRXOGQ¶W JHW her to sit and I thought, oh dear, we're in a bit of trou­ble here. But we're mak­ing progress,” she says.

There are a few smiles – some friendly, some FXULRXV ± IURP SDVVHUV-E\ DV WKH WHDP UHDFKHV WKH WUDI¿F OLJKWV RSSRVLWH :RROZRUWKV. ³8S, WRXFK,´ says Jonkers, and Lacey is up on her hind legs, aim­ing for the but­ton to trig­ger a “walk” sig­nal

ZLWK KHU IURQW SDZ. 6KH GRHVQ¶W TXLWH JHW LW DW ¿UVW but touch.” Jonkers Lacey per­sists nails it. … Now and it's so game does Lacey. on and “Up, Lacey

seems to know she has to be on her best be­hav­iour. She sits when told at the front of the su­per­mar­ket and then walks along­side Jonkers through the GRRUV, LQWR WKH DUWL¿FLDO OLJKW. 6KH JRHV WKURXJK DQ XQZLHOG\ FRQWUDSWLRQ GHVLJQHG WR VWRS WUROOH\ WKHIW DKHDG RI -RQNHUV LQ WKH FKDLU, ZDLWV WR IDOO DORQJVLGH DQG PRYHV RQ ZKHQ FRPPDQGHG. 7KH ¿UVW SODFH -RQNHUV GLUHFWV KHU LV WR WKH PHDW DLVOH. ³,W¶V SDUW RI WKH SXEOLF DFFHVV WHVW EXW ,¶P D YHJHWDULDQ, VR LQ UHDOLW\, ZH¶OO QHYHU JR SDVW KHUH,´ -RQNHUV MRNHV. /DFH\ GRHVQ¶W SXW D SDZ ZURQJ. 7KH ULE URDVW LV LJQRUHG, WKH FRUQHG EHHI QRW HYHQ VQLIIHG DW. ³*RRG JLUO,´ HQFRXUDJHV -RQNHUV.

Holmes is pleased with Jonkers, too, who has EHFRPH PRUH LQ FRQWURO, UHOD[LQJ KHU VKRXOGHUV DV KH DGYLVHG RQ WKH MRXUQH\ XS. ³6HH,´ KH VD\V, ³/DFH\¶V PRUH FRQ¿GHQW QRZ EHFDXVH 0DUD\NH KDV FKDQJHG. /RRN DW WKH DQJOH RI KHU VKRXOGHUV, WKDW¶V KRZ \RX ZRUN ZLWK D GRJ LQ D FKDLU, E\ \RXU VKRXOGHUV.´ 1R-RQH VHHPV WRR ERWKHUHG E\ WKH

sight of a dog in the meat aisle. Holmes says

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who looks af­ter the dogs when the pri­mary train­ers

need a break, and has put his leather­work to good use, cre­at­ing col­lars and leads for ADA to sell. “I love the dogs,” Mack says, “they put a smile on your face ev­ery day.” There are four other back-up han­dlers, one of them re­lax­ing on the wheel­chair used to teach the dogs how to work with people with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties.

The hero, though, is Opal, Toby's charge, a 10-month-old dog that will be headed to Syd­ney in mid-Au­gust. “Be­cause she's do­ing so well, they want to take her straight­away,” he says. “So she's go­ing soon but I think that's awe­some be­cause she's go­ing to help some­one who's stuck in a wheel­chair, so that's a job well done. You al­ways know it's not your dog, any­way. She gets her pa­role.”

Out­side, on the pa­tio of the self-con­tained wing of the prison, be­yond the sight of the ra­zor wire,

7RE\ DVNV 2SDO WR ³¿QG´ WKH SKRQH. +H GRHVQ¶W spec­ify the phone yet be­cause the old-fash­ioned model on the ta­ble might not re­sem­ble her new RZQHU¶V SKRQH. 6XFK VXEWOHWLHV ZLOO EH UH¿QHG LQ 6\GQH\. 7KH ZRUG ³¿QG´ DQG D SRLQW LQ LWV GLUHFWLRQ VXI¿FHV. 6KH VDXQWHUV RYHU, JULSV WKH KDQGVHW ZLWK her mouth and re­turns. “Lap,” says Toby, and she drops it in his lap. There's kib­ble as re­ward. And a pat. “This can be a harsh en­vi­ron­ment,” says Toby, “so hav­ing the dogs brings a bit of nor­mal­ity into this life. You've got some­one to hang out with.” There are down­sides, though. “Most labs do snore,” he says, grin­ning. “I had one, Marco, and he snored like a freight train. And if they eat a bone or some­thing that upsets them, and you can't get them out [of the cell] quick enough, it can re­ally smell.” DIRT AND DUST, FLIES AND STUB­BORN COWS: that's the en­vi­ron­ment dogs such as this one were bred to work in. Red cat­tle dogs don't usu­ally have ring­side seats at one of the world's best

IRRWEDOO ¿HOGV, DFFHVV WR WKH SRVW-PDWFK IXQFWLRQ in Sun­corp Sta­dium's plush Padding­ton Room and ador­ing fans at ev­ery out­ing. But Red Dog got lucky. Yep, says his trainer, Justin Jordan, “of all the jobs they could have, he's got a fun one”.

Red, the six-month-old pup play­ing with a toy on Jordan's man­i­cured lawn in Al­bany Creek, in Bris­bane's outer north, has scored big-time in his role as chief ca­nine and ju­nior mas­cot for the state's Su­per Rugby team, the Queens­land Reds.

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be­ing whip-smart but even Jordan is sur­prised Red

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just swal­lows it up,” Jordan says. Red goes to all man­ner of pub­lic­ity events where he bows and twirls for ado­ra­tion, is in train­ing to deliver the kick­ing tee next year and leads the team out onto WKH ¿HOG DW KRPH JDPHV DW 6XQFRUS LQ IURQW RI WKRXVDQGV RI VFUHDPLQJ IDQV. ³+LV ZRUN LV de­mand­ing,” in­sists Jordan, “but it's only for a cou­ple of hours here and a cou­ple of hours there and if he mucks it up, oh well, he's cute, he can get away with it. If a guide dog mucks it up, there are some pretty se­ri­ous con­se­quences, po­ten­tially.”

Right now, Red is learn­ing about con­se­quences.

+H OLYHV PRVW RI WKH WLPH ZLWK YHWHULQDULDQ %HUQLH Bred­hauer, but stays with Jordan three days a week, which in­volves in­ter­act­ing with Jordan's dogs: Lex, a labrador that makes vis­its to nurs­ing homes, and Zed, a rot­tweiler. Red is try­ing to take a chewy bone off Zed. A soft growl emits from Zed's lips. “So

PDQ\ SHRSOH DUH WHUUL¿HG RI URWWZHLOHUV EXW ORRN DW that,” says Jordan; “you've got a puppy that only stays here a few days a week try­ing to take a bone out of his mouth. Even­tu­ally, if Red keeps push­ing, Zed might go `rah' and snap, but you know, that's a fair call. It teaches Red bound­aries.”

Af­ter years of work as a se­nior man­ager in the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, Jordan had the re­sources to quit ten years ago and pur­sue his dream of set­ting up a dog-train­ing busi­ness. Most of his work is deal­ing with prob­lem dogs at risk of be­ing re-homed or put down be­cause of bad be­hav­iour. “It's so re­ward­ing to save a dog's life.” Be­ing Red's trainer brings dif­fer­ent re­wards – such as be­ing in the thick of it on game day.

Be­fore a Su­per Rugby game, Jordan and Red go out to the precinct in front of Sun­corp Sta­dium to meet the fans. They do the same at half-time, with Red walk­ing the perime­ter and giv­ing out “hugs”. “I touch the fence and say `hugs' and he'll stand up on his back legs and put his paws there so the per­son on the other side of the fence gets to pat him,” says Jordan. “People ab­so­lutely adore him; it's huge mar­ket­ing for the Reds, hugely suc­cess­ful and helps with that en­gage­ment with the mums and the kids.”

Dur­ing a match, Red and Jordan sit on the side­line. Once, Jordan had to throw his body over Red's to pro­tect him from an in­com­ing ball and thun­der­ing feet. Some­times Red lays his head

GRZQ RQ WKH KDOORZHG WXUI DQG KDV D NLS. ³+H¶V

only a puppy, and it's a big, big day for him so LI KH ZDQWV WR KDYH D VQRR]H, JUHDW. +DYH D VOHHS, EXGG\,´ -RUGDQ VD\V. :KHQ D WU\ LV LQ WKH RI¿QJ RU a penalty goal set to be taken, it's game on. Jordan gets word through an ear­piece that the cam­eras are about to turn to Red, and the pup is up on his feet,

UHDG\ WR ZRUN. 7KH OLWWOH $XVVLH FDWWOH GRJ ¿OOV

the big screen and he spins, he rolls, he begs, he

KLJK-¿YHV. $ ULSSOH RI GHOLJKW VFDPSHUV WKURXJK WKH caul­dron. Win or draw, Red Dog puts a smile on our faces … and that's the best job any dog can do.

l * Names have been changed.

THE RIB ROAST IS IG­NORED, THE CORNED BEEF NOT EVEN SNIFFED AT. “GOOD GIRL,” EN­COUR­AGES JONKERS.

In train­ing … Par­a­lympian Marayke Jonkers and L-plater Lacey are learn­ing to work to­gether around the house and out­side it.

Prison pals … In­mate Toby puts Opal through her paces. She's do­ing so well he says she'll get her “pa­role” next month.

HIS BREED IS WHIP-SMART … RED AL­READY HAS 62 COM­MANDS IN HIS REPER­TOIRE.

Match fit … Justin Jordan trains Red Dog; ( be­low) Red on duty as ju­nior mas­cot of the Queens­land Reds Su­per Rugby team.

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