|Gulf war veteran Allen Parton with his loyal companion Endal, who won this year's UK Golden Bonio Award in April over a field of almost 3000 entrants. - Picture: PA Photos.
Loyalty award for loving Labrador
By Fiona Cummins, LPS Special Correspondent
A DISABLED Gulf War veteran watched with pride as his faithful Labrador won top prize at a special awards ceremony for dogs. Endal, who is two-and-a-half years old, was crowned over-all winner at the first Golden Bonio Awards in London.
The highly skilled care dog was chosen by a celebrity judging panel as a unique example of the close relationship that can develop between people and their four-legged friends.
His owner, Allen Parton from Clanfield, Hampshire, southern England, suffered a serious head injury while serving in the Royal Navy and spent five years in hospital struggling to recover.
Returning home, disabled and traumatised, he began to withdraw into himself until Endal came into his life. Now, the golden Labrador helps Allen to get out of bed, dress and get into his wheelchair. Endal also collects the day's post, takes money from automated cash machines, unloads the washing machine and helps with supermarket shopping.
Allen said: "I contacted an organisation called Canine Partners for Independence (CPI) which introduced me to Endal. That was two years ago and we have been inseparable ever since.
"His practical help has given me back my independence, but he's helped me achieve much more than that by supporting me with unconditional love, 24 hours a day. Because of Endal I am nearly back to my old self. He has given me a belief in the future I thought I'd lost forever."
Endal beat competition from nearly 3000 entries to win 1000 pounds sterling and a year's supply of the bone-shaped biscuit Bonio - sponsor of the awards - at the presentation ceremony at London's Kensington Roof Gardens.
CPI is a United Kingdom charity that specially trains dogs to assist disabled people to enjoy greater independence and quality of life. The aim is to train at least 20 dogs - mainly Labradors and golden retrievers - a year.
The training period is about 18 months and it costs about 5000 pounds sterling for each dog, all of which comes from funds donated by the public. At the end of training the dog is able to respond to 90 commands, all of which help people who are disabled, particularly if they are wheelchair users, to get on with everyday living. For example, the dogs can draw curtains, switch lights on and off, call a lift and pick up dropped items.
"Not only do these dogs help in so many practical ways, but they also offer strong emotional support," said a CPI spokesman.