Assistance dog provides more than just a helping paw

Meet Byron.

On first appearance he looks like your typical golden Labrador. But an article earlier this week from the Daily Mail introduced readers to what really is a seven-year-old Super Dog.

Byron’s owner, Kate Cross, suffers from Ehlers Danlos syndrome, an inherited disorder that affects her joints, skin and blood vessels. As the article explains, her joints are so weak that she could dislocate a shoulder just from opening a door.

About five or six years ago, Kate’s emotional state began to suffer. She’d been forced to take early retirement from her job as a schoolteacher and had basically sought refuge in the safety of her home. As she says in the Daily Mail:

‘When I first got Byron, I hadn’t left the house by myself for almost 18 months. I felt useless, and I hated going outside – people stared and didn’t know how to speak to me.

“Once, I was in my wheelchair going through the park, when a gang of teenage boys playing football decided to use my chair for target practice. I was so upset, I couldn’t imagine going out again. I became afraid of the world.”

Then she heard about Canine Partners, a charity that matches assistance dogs with people who need help. Now, thanks to Byron, Kate not only has an easier time with her day-to-day activities but also feels free again. “Byron hasn’t just changed my life; he’s given me my life back,” she says.

Byron knows more than 100 different commands and is able – among other things – to:

  • open and close doors
  • load and unload the washing machine
  • make the bed
  • take money out of the ATM (Kate just has to key in her pass code)
  • help with the groceries by fetching items from the lower shelves, loading the conveyor belt and handing Kate’s purse to the cashier

A best friend, indeed.

Over to you: how much of a rock star is Byron?

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