HELPING PAW: Ella is an autism and psychiatric assistance dog .
HELPING PAW: Ella is an autism and psychiatric assistance dog . Contributed

Assistance dogs' helping paws acknowledged

DOGS with jobs are in the spotlight for International Assistance Dog Week, and a Charleville handler is speaking up on the important role of her hard-working canine.

Kirsten Harpley is often recognised around town with Ella, the miniature fox terrier, who is an autism and psychiatric alert dog.

"Since I started working with Ella, I no longer have panic attacks as frequently and can manage a condition called alexithymia,” MsHarpley said.

"Essentially she picks up on the scent of my adrenalin or watches my body for physical cues and will alert me to what's going on, so I can manage the situation.

"What she does enables me to work full-time and do different things.”

Working at Charleville State School, Ms Harpley has found her colleagues and the local community to be accepting of Ella.

"Most people out here know she's working and make sure not to distract her,” Ms Harpley said.

"I think there is more awareness about assistance dogs now that there are all kinds of conditions that assistance dogs are trained for and they have an important job to do.”

Next week Ella will hit an important milestone in her assistance career, when she sits the Queensland Public Access Test. It will mean she is government-certified as an assistance dog.


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