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19/11/01
Washing their dirty laundry in public!

Highly trained dogs from the charity Canine Partners for Independence will be showing an audience of MPs and members of the House of Lords how to put their dirty laundry in the washing machine and how to pull the emergency cord for help, at a reception to be held at Porcullis House, Westminster this week.

The demonstration, hosted by Baroness Flather and Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, included some of the one hundred skills the dogs have been taught to carry out for their disabled partners, such as calling a lift, pressing the button on the pedestrian crossing, helping with dressing, picking up the phone, collecting items from supermarket shelves and pressing an emergency button for help if it is needed.

A number of those people who have already benefited from being partnered with a Canine Partners dog will attend the reception including Baroness Flather's husband, Gary Flather OBE QC. Mr Flather was partnered with Gracie, a Golden Retriever who helps him carry out his hectic life as a busy QC, despite the fact that he is a wheelchair user as a result of Multiple Sclerosis - an incurable disease that progressively breaks down the nervous system.

"Disability is a presentation problem. People often don't know how to deal with someone in a wheelchair - especially if they are the boss or someone who commands such respect as a Judge. Gracie helps people get over that problem", he explains.

"Wherever I go and however heavy my workload, Gracie is by my side all the time giving me the practical help, emotional support and love I've come to depend on".

Tim Loughton, who is Shadow Health Minister with special responsibility for personal social services, children's health, nutrition and smoking adds "The difference that these amazing dogs make to the lives of people who have had to depend on family and carers for help is truly special. The work of everyone at Canine Partners for Independence is worthy of substantial public support to enable more disabled people to lead independent lives which most of us take for granted".