Hero dog transforms a Hampshire woman’s life

MANY of us would say our dog or cat is more than just a pet – but one Hampshire resident’s dog has transformed her life.

Angela Moody, whose disability has left her unable to move without pain, says assistance dog Odessa is not only her constant helper but also a companion.

The pair have been together six months, which for Angela has proved a revelation after more than three decades coping on her own.

Odessa has been specially trained by charity Canine Partners to assist people with disabilities.

But Angela, from Winchester, who has an auto immune disease that affects her joints, making movement painful, only came across the charity by chance when she was given a leaflet.

The 70-year-old’s condition developed in her late 20s and got worse during the next decade.

By the early 1980s Angela, who had worked as a nurse at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester and Southampton General Hospital and was studying for an English and drama degree in Winchester, ended up in a wheelchair.

Having relied on the public to help her, Angela, who is a visitor’s chaplain at Winchester Cathedral, now has her two-year-old Labrador retriever to do a variety of tasks.

These include picking things up, helping her pull off socks and cardigans and bringing her slippers, answering the phone, getting things off the lower shelves on shopping trips and even handing over her bank card at the till.

Odessa will even pick up her own food bowl when she has eaten and is currently learning to unload the washing machine.

Although she still has help from carers, Angela says Odessa has allowed her to retain as much independence as possible – though there are consequences.

“I tend to get holes in the sleeve because she gets enthusiastic,” said Angela.

“She used to give in my debit card [at the till] and I got through four because unfortunately she sunk her teeth into them so I would go into the bank and they’d say ‘another bank card Angela?’ “She’s got her own purse now – I think four is enough.”

Angela says Odessa’s special abilities do attract attention when out and about.

“I sometimes get a little audience when she’s doing things often children but sometimes adults, but I won’t ever ask her to do things simply to show people what she can do,” she said.

Angela said having to walk Odessa has got her out of the house and socialising with the dog walking community.

“She’s changed my life, not just by the things she does for me, but I would say a lot of it is the companionship,” she said. “She’s an incredible dog. It’s a partnership.”

To find out about Canine Partners visit caninepartners. org.uk or call 08456 580 480.