Twenty years, two hundred dogs and one family...
Hannie & Robert Biggs OAM had no idea that their holiday to the USA over 20yrs ago would change their lives forever, as well as those of so many families in Australia.
As huge animal lovers, the couple visited Canine Companions for Independence during their time in California, a charity which places Assistance Dogs with people living with physical disabilities.
Watching the joy and happiness that an Assistance Dog brought to one young girl in a wheelchair, was the pivotal moment for Hannie.
“The little girl was so excited, she was whizzing around in her wheelchair and playing with the dog, and her mother called out for her to slow down. The girl shouted back, for all to hear, ‘Mum, I can do anything with this dog by my side!’
“Still to this day, I get goose bumps whenever I think about that moment. On the plane home to Australia, I turned to my husband and said, ‘This is something we have to do.’”
And with that, Assistance Dogs Australia was born. With 1 in 5 people living in Australia with a disability, Hannie and Robert saw a need for specially trained four-legged friends. Since then, Assistance Dogs Australia has placed over 200 life-changing Assistance Dogs to people in need, including:
- wheelchair users
- children with autism
- military personnel with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- people living with dementia
20 years on, Assistance Dogs Australia has maintained its family values, with Hannie, Robert and their sons Andrew and Gavin, still very much involved with the organization.
Robert remains treasurer of the Board, while Hannie volunteers her time to show community groups the incredible work of Assistance Dogs Australia. Hannie visits groups & schools,demonstrating the skills that each dog learns with ambassador dog, Sunshine.
“People are always amazed when they can see what Sunshine can do.” said Hannie. “Her favourite thing is pulling my socks off.”
Together, Hannie and Sunshine show how an Assistance Dog can retrieve dropped items, open and close doors, remove items of clothing, answer the phone, and press the button at the pedestrian crossing.
Assistance Dogs Australia celebrates it's 20th birthday year in 2016. To find out how to be a part of it, visit their birthday page.