I have been single for a number of years, and with my children grown, with lives of their own, I maintain a large degree of independence. I can still drive, so Charlie and I have spent at least 12 months out of the last four years traveling around Australia.
He has helped me up and down stairs in museums in 5 capital cities, lead me back to my car safe and sound after a walk on the Great Ocean Road, helped balance me on a trail walk in the Adelaide hills, and stayed with me while I waited for help after my legs collapsed from under me. He gives me the confidence I need so I can live alone, and have the occasional adventure.
I was asked to be a volunteer for DAD, doing administration at first, then assessing public access tests. I could do this work around my own physical limitations, which helped me feel productive. I have always loved to learn, so learn I did. Seminars, short courses and books filled my spare time. I soon became a member of several Professional Dog Training bodies, and started putting what I learned into practice, helping others train both pets and assistance dogs.
Early in 2017 I was approached by a young woman inquiring about gluten detection. I was aware of medical detection dogs, but had little hands-on experience in this field. As I did some focused research into the field, I soon became completely absorbed.
I was fortunate to discover a wonderful trainer, Dawn Scheu of Willow Service Dogs, who has pioneered the field of gluten, and other allergen detection in America. She is a founding member of the American association, Organisation for Detection and Olfaction Reliability of Service Dogs Inc (O.D.O.R. Service Dogs Inc). Dawn agreed to train and mentor me, to help bring this very important work to Australia.
In early 2018, I had to retire Charlie due to his vision and hip problems. If I had to get a stand in for Charlie, I knew I wanted a pup that had started its life with the best chance for his future.
Rory was born on May 5th, and arrived in Brisbane on July 2nd, 2018. He is a joy. Along with his breeding, Puppy Culture has helped him to be a confident, curious, and resilient dog. To find out more about Puppy Culture, click here.
At the time of writing Rory is nearly two years old, and progressing nicely with his training.
I love doing this work. Helping people achieve a high standard of training and conduct with their dogs, and supporting them to maintain that standard, is very important to me. I know how much freedom Charlie has given me to live the life I want. Being able to help others achieve the same freedom, and enabling them to have a more productive, involved life, is a joy.
I have had many titles in my life. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, baby sitter, shop assistant, telemarketer, nursing assistant and government employee among others. Each title brought with it challenges and joy. My current title of dog trainer is no different.
In 2006 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after collapsing at work. I enjoyed my government job, but in 2012 I had to retire due to symptoms that made it difficult to hold a 9-5 job. At 52 years old, I knew I wanted to have a life that was fulfilled and productive, so I started my search for an assistance Dog to help me. Waiting lists were very long, and the cost was prohibitive.
That is when I found Disability Aid Dogs (DAD). DAD is a company that helps owner/trainers to have their assistance dog's certified. It is a small company, founded in 1994 by the late Alex Van Oeveren. Alex helped draft the Australian Federal Disability Discrimination Act, and also helped me select my beautiful boy, Charlie. Charlie is a golden retriever / standard poodle mix, and with our introduction, my new life, and subsequent career, soon began.