27 March 2009

'Lifesaver' dog is paid for work

A dog described as a "lifesaver" by a disabled Devon woman is being given money by a local council to help with its upkeep.

Wendy Hillings, 59, from West Yelland, near Barnstaple, suffers from a condition which leaves her skin very fragile and prone to blistering badly.

Two-year-old Edward, a golden retriever, helps her with tasks to prevent her skin from being damaged.

Devon County Council gives Mrs Hillings £30 a week to help with his costs.

Carer pressure

Mrs Hillings' condition, dystrophic recessive epidermolysis bullosa, means that contact with many objects causes it to blister, restricting the use of her hands for everyday chores.

She also has throat problems which can lead to her being unable to breathe.

Edward has been with her since he was nine-weeks-old and has been trained to obey more than 100 commands.

They include helping her take her coat off, emptying the washing machine, retrieving money from a cash machine and fetching help if she has breathing problems.

She said he had transformed her life.

She said: "He has gone for help before if I need it.

"If I stop breathing in the middle of the night and my husband and I are both asleep, Edward's worrying my husband's pillow, saying: 'She needs help'."

She said that Edward had also taken much pressure off her husband, Peter, because he was no longer her sole carer.

She said: "If we go out, Peter's not going as my carer, he's going as my husband, and that is so important for the relationship."

Edward's work means Mrs Hilling is getting direct payments from Devon County Council to help pay for his food and toys.

The council said: "Mrs Hilling does receive direct payments for his upkeep.

"Providing money in lieu of social care services gives people like Mrs Hilling greater flexibility, choice and control over their lives, and enables them to make their own decisions about how their care is delivered."

Edward was provided by the charity Canine Partners.

The charity currently has 300 people on its waiting list for its dogs.

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