Its that time of year again, where those of us with Assistance Dogs NZ Trust Dogs get out and raise some funds to help other New Zealanders have better lives with the help of these amazing dogs.

If you can spend a few hours tomorrow or Saturday please get in touch with Wendy at the above numbers, we’d love to hear from you. Some of the sites around the country may not run because we don’t have enough people to help out. It takes a huge amount of time and money to get these dogs ready and out to families and we can’t do it without your help!

That being said if you are in Palmerston North and can spend a couple of hours down at Pak N Save with me, please get in touch! Come and see us on Saturday anyway!!  If helping out isn’t your cup of tea, please consider donating a few dollars on the ADNZ Givealittle page (just click this link), every little bit helps!

My life simply would not be the same without ADNZ Ben, I would never have achieved my trip up to Rangiwahia Hut in February and would not be considering some of my upcoming trip without him. One of my biggest fears about going out solo has been doing a turtle impersonation if I fall with a full pack on.  I did have a fall on the trip to Rangiwahia and although its a bit of a process, ADNZ Ben helps get me righted and I can continue safely on.

Although a lot of the time it just looks like ADNZ Ben is standing around or having a nap, the role he plays in my life is huge.  Just simply going to the supermarket or into town is made a lot easier with him; for instance; how many of you stress about dropping your keys or EFTPOS card? I used to; as I have trouble picking things up off the ground, and that makes me feel vulnerable. With ADNZ Ben there I feel more confident as I know that ADNZ Ben will retrieve things I drop. This retrieval is also handy for around the house; although we have had to train ADNZ Ben only to retrieve what is asked for, otherwise we end up with a pile of random objects at our feet in hope of a treat, typical Labrador!

Although ADNZ Ben has had a huge positive effect on my life, its not all unicorns and rainbows having an Assistance Dog, and at times it feels like I’ve got a toddler (although I think ADNZ Ben behaves better than a lot of toddlers *wink*) with making sure I have everything needed and ready for him as well (do I have the poo bags, bowl, mat, leash (do I need the long line as well?), muzzle (if needed), spare food etc. When did he last poop? Is there somewhere for him to pee when we get there?) but its all worth it. Going out in public with him can certainly be an interesting experience; dealing with the public can be both entertaining and infuriating.


As a handler I have a few things for the general public to keep in mind when you see a Disability Assist Dog out and working:

  • Please ask the handler if it is ok to approach the dog BEFORE you approach or talk to the dog.  I don’t like ADNZ Ben to interact with a lot of people, as he gets distracted and he is large enough to pull me over given the “right” circumstances. Other handlers are OK with you interacting with their dogs but ask first!
  • Please don’t stare, point and whisper. We know our dogs are cute, and we know that you may not be used to seeing them in the supermarket, but its just a dog and you have seen one before. Most people wouldn’t point, stare and whisper about a wheelchair.
  • Please just let us get on with our day, usually we are just trying to live our lives.  Shortly after being teamed up with ADNZ Ben it took 45 mins in the supermarket just to get a bottle of milk because I was stopped by so many people asking about the dog. These days I add an extra 30 mins to trips to town to account for this kind of interaction.
  • Here in NZ a “Service Dog” (American Terminology but is often the easiest way to explain what our dogs do) must go through a government approved program and will be wearing some form of jacket or harness with an organisation badge on it. Please don’t tell us that we can’t take our dog places, by law (Dog Control Act) our dogs are on the same par as guide dogs. Certainly don’t be the person that told me I was faking being blind just so I could take my dog everywhere, it will probably earn you an earful.
  • If you are taking to a handler about their dog (assuming that the handler is ok with talking) be mindful that asking about “what work does he do?” is essentially asking about their medical condition.  I know that I don’t want to disclose that information to every random stranger I meet. For instance by knowing that ADNZ Ben picks items up for me, you automatically find out I have trouble picking items up from the ground. There are times I am ok talking about this kind of thing, and times that I really DO NOT want to. I have to live with this every day, and although ADNZ Ben makes the day easier, I don’t want to talk about it to everyone I meet, especially if I am having a bad day.
  • If a handler is a little rude about asking you not to pet the dog, that they have to go or won’t answer your questions; please keep in mind that you are probably not the first person that day to ask that question or as nicely as you asked.  We’ve also heard many “that dog looks just like mine (but a different breed)”, “I lost my dog a few months ago”, or “I just love dogs and I can’t have one” type stories, so please bear that in mind; it gets stressful and tiring. (and I just want to get the damn milk and go home)
  • To my friends, I love you but please, please, please stop the “but its just me, he can say hi to me” type comments.  If we’ve got time and energy I will give ADNZ Ben his “say hi” cue, I’m not intentionally being rude, but honestly if I let everyone “say hi”, ADNZ Ben starts to think that he can just go up to people, which is bad form. If I tell him that its time to “focus” or “back to work”, you giving him “just a goodbye pat” goes against what I’ve just asked him to do.

Now that I have told everyone off… As a Disability Assist Dog handler in New Zealand I totally understand that you don’t see many teams out and about. We understand that often it is purely surprise, that you honestly didn’t know that our dogs have the same legal rights as guide dogs, that you are genuinely curious as to how the dogs help with other conditions and that you have no ill intent and for the most part I am usually happy to take the time to stay and have a chat. Just remember that I am human, and the best thing you can do is to ignore the dog. For those of you who already do; Thank you.

If you want to make Disability Assist Dog handlers lives just a little easier please share this link.  I know people who are considering not getting a dog due to the idiocy seen when dealing with people interacting with our dogs. It is not fair that people have to weigh up the risk of abuse etc when in public against the immeasurable positive impact these dog can have on their lives.

I want to thank Assistance Dogs New Zealand Trust for the privilege of having ADNZ Ben placed with me. Your hard work and dedication to making life a little better for New Zealand families is greatly appreciated. Having ADNZ Ben has opened huge doors for me and I know that other ADNZ dogs have had huge impacts on the families they are placed with. I know at times its a thankless job and you’re constantly working hard to educate, fund-raise, train the dogs, train the people (puppy raisers, handlers & families and staff), ensure vet care, run the breeding program, feed the dogs and probably countless other tasks; thank you for all that you do, never sell yourselves short of what an amazing job you do as a team. Words cannot express my gratitude.

Everyone else….  Dig out the spare change from your couch, find that $20 in a jacket pocket and help these amazing dogs change lives!

I think he wants to head out that door!

Adventure on!

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