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Charity support is all in a good paws

13 Jan 2016

An administration assistant from Sunderland has helped to raise over £400 for a charity very close to her heart with the help of her dog, Alex and has been overwhelmed with support from her colleagues.

Fifty-year-old Leonie Zacharias who works for Stagecoach North East at the company’s bus depot in Sunderland, helped to organise a fundraising event at Newton Community Hall with Have A Good Dog dog training company, to raise much needed funds for Dog Aid which helps people with disabilities to lead an independent life.

Dog A.I.D (Assistance in Disability) is an assistance dog organisation which works with clients to train their own pet dog to help them with daily tasks such as opening doors, closing the curtains and making the bed.

Leonie has very personal reasons for helping the charity, as her partner Barry, a former Stagecoach bus driver for 27 years, has benefitted from their dog training and support when they decided to train their own dog, Alex.

Leonie explained: “After being a bus driver for so many years, a job he loved, Barry unfortunately developed peripheral neuropathy, a painful and debilitating condition which affected his hands and feet and meant he had to give up his job. To help maintain his independence, we took on a black Labrador puppy and decided to train him to help Barry around the house and out in the community.”

Leonie and Barry met with dog trainer Vicky Welsh from Have a Good Dog, who also volunteers for Dog A.I.D, and together they trained Alex to achieve his Level 1 in skills training, where he can pick up Barry’s walking stick or keys, and even open the door for him. 

Leonie continued: “We went to dog training classes together and joined the Dog A.I.D programme, and Alex can now progress to his next level of training, which is already making such a difference to Barry’s quality of life. I wanted to help this great cause and give something back, so I worked with Vicky and Dog A.I.D to help organise a fundraising day, with workshops to help dog owners teach their beloved pets new skills, and selling tickets and collecting raffle prizes and gifts for the tombola stall.

“We have had a fantastic response from Stagecoach North East, with the company donating £100 and great support from fellow work colleagues who have helped with previous events to raise almost £400. The support for Barry and the charity is amazing from drivers. Having a personal connection to the charity has meant that people have been extra generous in donating their time and money and I am thankful to them.”

Lynn Stacey, 49, from Ryhope, an associated trick dog instructor who fundraises for the Dog A.I.D, has also experienced the benefits that a specially trained assistance dog can bring. Lynn suffers from a number of disabilities and her fully qualified assistance dog Bella helps with everyday tasks such as putting clothes in the washing machine, closing the curtains and making the bed. 

Lynn said: “My assistance dog Bella makes such a difference to my life, the work Dog A.I.D. does has enabled me to become more independent, so I jumped at the opportunity to help raise fund for Dog A.I.D. 

“We had a great time at the fundraiser, Bella showed some of her tasks and tricks and our trainer Vicky was on hand to help teach the other dogs some new skills. Thanks to Leonie for all her hard work and amazing amount was raised.”

Vicky added: “Our Christmas fundraiser for Dog A.I.D was a huge success and I am delighted with the support we have received. As a trainer for Dog A.I.D, I see first-hand how dogs in training progress to become fully qualified assistance dogs and the difference this makes to clients day-to-day lives. I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated and gave their support to make the event successful.”

Additional support was provided by The Stables pub, which donated two lunch vouchers, The Bridge Hair studio donated a free cut and blow dry treatment and Sunderland Association Football Club donated a signed football.