ONE of North Cotswolds Rotary Club's chosen charities for 2018 is Canine Partners, and on Tuesday, January 30 the club hosted an inspirational talk at Naunton Downs Golf Club given by Colette Kilmister, accompanied by her assistance dog Jennie, a 10 year-old Labradoodle.

Colette told the 55 members and guests how Jennie “gave me a life", by enabling her to enjoy a degree of independence and thereby grow in confidence and self-esteem.

She has had Jennie for eight and a half years, and it was clear for all to see what a strong bond there was between the two.

Canine Partners is a registered charity that transforms the lives of people with physical disabilities by partnering them with specially trained assistance dogs.

Their strap line is ‘Amazing dogs, transforming lives’, and their assistance dogs do indeed transform lives by bringing greater independence and quality of life to their partners, and providing practical help with everyday household tasks.

These amazing dogs, sometimes referred to as dogs for the disabled, help those with a medical condition that must be fully stable, to lead lives that might otherwise need almost full time care.

With Jennie by her side Colette explained that she is able to go shopping in her motorised wheelchair, and Jennie fetches items from the shelves, puts them into a basket, and at the checkout passes a purse to the shop assistant.

Jennie also helps with opening and closing doors, and she even operates the washing machine, putting in dirty clothes and pulling out the clean ones.

She is rewarded with a small treat for every article of clothing retrieved. She can open the fridge, and opens drawers or fetches the telephone or other household items when asked to do so by Colette. She can even fetch help in an emergency.

And of course, she is a wonderful companion.

Colette gave Rotarians and guests an insight into how long it takes to train an assistance dog and then match it to the right partner.

A suitable pedigree dog spends about a year with a ‘puppy parent’, and then undergoes advanced training for a further six months.

There follows a home assessment, and at about 18 to 20 months an assistance dog is ready for placement.

Colette, who has had Jennie for almost nine years, explained that the life cost of an assistance dog from puppy to retirement is about £20,000.

Currently there are around 300 assistance dogs in Britain, but the demand is much greater than this. Canine Partners receives no government grants and is entirely funded by charitable donations.

After the talk, club president Peter Boxall handed Colette an initial cheque for £200 to Canine Partners, and the charity will also benefit as one of the principal charities from the club’s Golf Day in June.

Peter said: “You and Jennie have been an inspiration to us all and we are very pleased to be able to help such a worthwhile charity.”

He thanked Colette and Jennie for sharing their moving story with club members.