One man and his dog

THEY say that man s best friend is his dog and in some cases this could not be more true. For Andy Lee, life without his partner in crime Henry, would be very different. He s my best buddy, says Mr Lee of Town Green Road, Orwell. I don t know what I d

THEY say that man's best friend is his dog and in some cases this could not be more true.

For Andy Lee, life without his partner in crime Henry, would be very different.

"He's my best buddy," says Mr Lee of Town Green Road, Orwell.

"I don't know what I'd do without him.

"He never seems to have a bad day."

In 1994, Mr Lee broke his neck after flipping over the handle bars of his bicycle.

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Despite wearing a helmet, the fall broke his neck and he was left with severe high spinal cord injuries that left his arms and legs paralysed.

Mr Lee is now a speaker for Dogs for the Disabled, a charity which provides disabled children and adults with specially trained dogs that help them to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

And, this is how Mr Lee and Henry were introduced.

"I got Henry when he was about two years old, he's nearly six now. He has changed my life completely.

"I was able to stop the care visits I was having in the evenings when Henry was trained to help me. That has made a big difference as I can go to bed when I want now rather than when the carer comes over."

The Dogs for the Disabled puppies are chosen at around eight weeks old and go to live with a Puppy Socialiser for their first year.

They are trained in the basics such as walking on a lead, learning simple commands and house training but unlike pet dogs are taken to supermarkets, restaurants and theatres to increase their confidence and get used to the many different sights, smells and sounds that they will encounter as working dogs.

For the next eight months of their lives the dogs are trained in five areas: obedience, retrieving, pushing, pulling and speaking (or barking) on command.

"Henry can open and close draws and doors and all the basic things but I have taught him to do extras over the years.

"Rather than just opening the bin he can pick up rubbish from the floor, put it in and close the lid."

Henry can also bring the phone to Mr Lee, pick up the post or anything that has dropped on the floor and help with undressing.

"The motto for Dogs for the Disabled is 'creating partnerships - changing lives' and that's what Henry has done for me."

Henry is able to call for help, carry things to the car and even hand over Mr Lee's credit card to cashiers.

Dogs like Henry are matched with applicants according to their individual skills, character and temperament.

At the end of his working life, which depends on both his and Mr Lee's health, Henry will be given a loving home in the nearby community or stay with Mr Lee who will have a new working friend.

Dogs for the Disabled was started in 1986 by Frances Hay, who had herself become disabled at the age of 16, and whose dog had helped her to overcome some of her physical problems.

- Mr Lee will be holding a fund-raising event for Dogs for the Disabled on Saturday at his home, 31a Town Green Road, Orwell.

The Dogs Breakfast will run from 9am until 1pm offering visitors a bacon roll and tea or coffee.

Mr Lee, who is available to give talks to any interested clubs, said: "Since I have had Henry, we have been able to buy a puppy every year through fund raising events like this."

"I've been told I have a remarkable dog here, Henry has changed my life.