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Rochdale-based Motorcycle club MT Heads were joined by Mayor and Mayoress Dutton outside the town hall on Friday morning (4 November) to present a £1,500 cheque to Hounds for Heroes founder and vice-chairman, Allen Parton.
Hounds for Heroes is a charity set up to provide specially trained assistance dogs to injured and disabled men and women of both the UK armed forces and civilian emergency services.
Enough money has been raised to enable eight puppies to start and complete the full training programme required to become a service dog.
Allen Parton, who started Hounds for Heroes five years ago, flew into Rochdale from London to accept the £1500 donation. He said: “This is such a humbling and incredible experience.
“The message that people, especially these wonderful people [MT Heads], are sending out is that they care, and I couldn’t think of a more poignant time of year for that to resonate.”
Mr Parton, who was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, suffered a severe head injury in 1991 which left him with considerable physical and emotional trauma. The injury wiped out his memories and left him unable to walk, speak, or write, he couldn’t even remember his own family.
After spending five years in hospital struggling to come to terms with his disabilities, he was partnered with Endal, a yellow Labrador assistance dog. Endal could respond to hundreds of instructions and, because Mr Parton was unable to speak, signed commands. He could even put a card into a cash machine, retrieve the card when the process was complete, and then return the card to the wallet.
“When I couldn’t talk, he learned sign language. If I touched my head I wanted my hat, if I touched my face it was for the razor. He learned hundreds of commands in signing. Eventually one day, I grunted. It was like an electric shock going through him, he was so excited. They said I’d never speak again, but Endal just dragged the speech out of me.”
In 2001, he was knocked out of his wheelchair by a speeding car and left unconscious in a car park. The driver was in a deep state of shock, so Endal took charge and pulled Mr Parton into the recovery position, covered him with a blanket and fetched his mobile phone. Getting no response Endal then left Allen’s side and went to a nearby hotel and raised the alarm.
Because of his heroics, Endal was awarded the PDSA’s gold medal for animal gallantry and devotion to duty, the highest award available to an animal. A paperback book, entitled ‘Endal’, was published by Harper Collins on 9 February 2009, and went straight to number five in the UK paperback top sellers list.
Endal, who died in March 2009, is also having his life story turned into a £5 million movie, with Mr Parton’s current dog, Endal Junior, playing the role of Endal.
His amazing partnership with Endal was what led Mr Parton, who lives in Portsmouth, to set up the Hounds for Heroes charity. He said: “I’d like to stress that we don’t only focus of those who have been injured in current warfare, but also those who are struggling with trauma from past conflict, because I know, from first-hand experience, that dogs can change lives.
“My visit comes at an appropriate time; we must not only remember those have died in conflict, but those who are still affected by it every day. Most people don’t know that the Remembrance day two-minute silence should consist of one minute for those who have fallen, and the other for those who are still suffering.
“When the guns go quiet on the battlefield, the battle with disability, trauma, and stress doesn’t end. For some it is just the beginning.”
MT Heads, who raise money for a different charity each year, organised a range of events across the borough. The ‘Ride in, Rock out’ bike show, which was organised in partnership with the Flying Horse, raised the most money for this year’s cause.
Julie Cliffe, of MT Heads, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who supports our events, we couldn’t do it without you.”