Puppy cadets all at Sea
The idea of HMS Illustrious helping Hounds for Heroes came from Lt Andy Dowling, a Lynx Observer who has recently joined Illustrious as Air Strike Ops. Lt Dowling was himself a ‘puppy parent’ for a New Zealand assistance dogs charity, during a recent exchange posting down under, so has seen first hand the enormous benefits a specially trained dog can provide.
Lt Dowling recently visited Hounds for Heroes’ base near Petersfield, with fellow officers from the fund-raising committee, Lt Holly Carter, and Flt Lt Daniel Spencer Healey. Hounds for Heroes have since returned the visit - Founder Allen Parton and his assistance dog EJ, puppy cadets Juno and Yomper and their puppy parents joined the crew of Illustrious for a bit of ‘Initial Sea Training’. Since all puppy cadets need to experience a wide variety of environments as part of their assistance dog training, walking up the gangway, riding on the aircraft lift and sniffing around the hangar and flight deck will have been a valuable learning experience for them.
The sights and sounds of the dockyard were also significant for ex-RN CPO Allen, who hadn’t visited the naval base since embarking for the Gulf in 1991. Allen said that not only did seeing Illustrious bring back memories of his own navy career, they also helped to remind him of the enormous importance of the work Hounds for Heroes is doing, and the people the charity will ultimately be helping.
Hounds for Heroes was founded in 2010 to provide specially trained assistance dogs to injured and disabled men and women of both the UK armed forces and civilian emergency services. The charity currently has eight puppies in training, the first of whom should enter service in late 2013.
HMS Illustrious aims to raise at least £5,000, enough to sponsor a puppy through its 2-year training. All puppy cadets are given military names which can be chosen by their sponsors, so there's a chance we'll see a four-legged Lusty on board around this time next year!