15 October 2004-10-14
Canine Heroes – One More Dog to be Honoured!
On Sunday, the last of this years’ Canine Heroes will be posthumously
honoured at the New Zealand Kennel Club, in Porirua. The winners of our
three categories were honoured during the NZKC PROP PLAN National Dog Show
however this award is for a very special dog that is no longer with us.
Harley Jnr, a German Shepherd sadly passed away on Christmas Eve 2003,
however because he was such an exceptional dog the judges feel his
contribution deserves acknowledgement.
In 1987, Debbie Anderson became confined to a wheelchair. In1989, having
been turned down by a number of breeders, Konigreich Kennels in Lower Hutt
agreed to give her an eight week old puppy. Debbie named the puppy Harley
Jnr and began training him immediately so that together they could compete
in obedience and breed shows. Success came quickly to this team who worked
so well together.
The rapport between dog and owner grew. Before long Harley was fetching
items for Debbie, opening and closing doors, gates and drawers, turning on
and off light switches, getting groceries off shop shelves and generally
being Debbie’s legs.
Harley gave Debbie more independence than she had ever imagined was
Drama struck one afternoon when Debbie collapsed while preparing the
family meal. Not only did she lapse into unconsciousness but in doing so,
she fell onto the kitchen knife that she was holding which in turn pierced
her abdomen. Harley brought Debbie back to consciousness by licking her
face. Then having roused her, Harley brought her the phone so that she
could dial an ambulance. Debbie had been seriously injured and there can
be no doubt that Harley played a major part in saving her life.
Once recovered, Debbie and Harley began visiting the sick and dying. Again
Harley developed such a rapport with these people that families would
request him to visit during their last days. As people in similar
situations became aware of the independence Harley had given Debbie, she
started to receive many requests to train dogs for others.
On 1st March 1990, after much lobbying of local authorities, Debbie and
Harley launched a national organization called TOP DOG COMPANION TRUST –
“SPECIAL DOGS FOR SPECIAL NEEDS”.
Harley Jnr became the first companion working assistance service dog in
New Zealand. This charitable trust is staffed by volunteers who train
puppies. Once trained, the puppies are placed throughout New Zealand to
people with physical disabilities. In addition to giving their owners Love
and Companionship, these dogs also give them Independence.
Harley Jnr gave Debbie a life of independence beyond her wildest dreams
and even now he will pass that legacy on to other disabled people through
the work of the Top Dog Companion Trust.