The West

Happy is more than a helper

Melanie Hawkes may not have full use of her limbs but she does not let it hold her back.

Five-year-old labrador Happy acts as an extension of Ms Hawkes' body, allowing her to do things she would otherwise find impossible.

Ms Hawkes, 34, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis just before she turned two.

The rare neurological condition has left her almost paralysed from the neck down.

"Happy allows me to live a better life than I ever could have imagined," Ms Hawkes said.

"He goes everywhere with me. He opens and shuts doors, picks up things that I drop, takes my shoes and socks off."

Assistance dog Happy was matched with Ms Hawkes in 2011 after she had lived on her own for more than a decade.

She said life had improved dramatically since Happy came on the scene.

Her loyal companion joins her at work, travelling interstate and at the football.

"He is a real Dockers fan - he barks every time they get a goal," Ms Hawkes said.

Although Happy's main role is to perform everyday tasks Ms Hawkes cannot, he is also a dependable companion and protector.

"I feel much safer living on my own because of Happy," she said. "He has changed my life."

Happy is trained through Assistance Dogs Australia, a not-for-profit group that provides dogs to help people with disabilities.

A portion of money raised through United Way WA's Five Cents for Five Senses Campaign will help ADA train dogs and match them with their owners.

To donate to the campaign, visit any HBF or Westpac branch or visit unitedwaywa.com.au

The West Australian

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