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Friday, September 23, 2005

DOGGIE TAILS# 8. Luke and Jerry Inseparable Mates!

Here’s a beautiful Doggie Tail out of Ipswich, Queensland, that would melt even the coldest heart…

JERRY takes his job as an assistant to Luke Sharpe very seriously. Consequently, he expects to be everywhere Luke is and be able to go everywhere his young master goes. The two-year-old Labrador can open doors, turn on lights, pick up dropped items and raise the alarm if something is wrong with Luke. He can even open the door to a front loader washing machine and put the dirty clothes in.

But strictly speaking, Jerry isn't a guide dog like those provided to sight and hearing impaired people, and so he doesn't have a clear legal right to access public places – including shops, restaurants, taxis, buses and trains. It's an anomaly that's being addressed by Disability Services Minister Warren Pitt, whose department has released a discussion paper proposing that assistance dogs have the same legal standing as guide dogs.

As far as Luke's mum Coral is concerned, Jerry has been a godsend for her 18-year-old son who has physical and intellectual disabilities. "It's been the best thing that's happened to Luke by far," she said. The Ipswich family has had Jerry since last December, Mrs Sharpe said, and so far they had not run into an access problems. "Luke is in a wheelchair, so I think people see the dog and think, yes, he needs him, but there are bound to be problems somewhere along the line," she said.

Craig Murray, who trained Jerry for 14 months before handing him over to Luke, said the law changes were important so trainers had full public access while training dogs and so trainers and owners were aware what assistant dogs were allowed to do. "Luke is in a wheelchair, but other people with disabilities might be challenged," he said.

Mr. Murray said increasing numbers of people with disabilities were seeking assistance dogs. "Jerry has been trained to go everywhere with Luke," he said.
"He provides Luke with personal support and companionship, so Luke's always got a familiar friend with him. "There's nothing like seeing a kid like Luke get a dog like Jerry and seeing how much their lives are enhanced."

And there's no denying that. Ask Luke how he feels about Jerry and he raises two thumbs up.

Ask me the same question, and I will give the thumbs up, and a bit of financial support as well!


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