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How one dog and a trike have changed a life

Alia Parker's picture
Alice wants to say thanks to Assistant Dogs Australia for giving her Kooper. Cycle Traveller

For some people, a recumbent tricycle and a dog can make more of a difference to one's quality of life than most of us could ever imagine. Freedom, mobility and independence combined with confidence, security and friendship – it's an enriching combination that has inspired Alice Verall to lead by example and help others.

Alice, who has restricted movement and balance as a result of cerebral palsy, says her dog Kooper is not only a friend, but a companion that helps her out in everyday situations.

“Because he is perfectly trained, I can look after him,” she says. “He can pick things up that I drop and he has a security bark, so if I'm in danger he can alert people. I also feel more stable on my feet when I'm walking with Kooper.”

Kooper is an assistance dog two years and $27,000 in the making.

It's the remarkable difference Kooper has made to Alice's life that is driving her to hike and cycle throughout regions of Australia on her recumbent tricycle named 'Freedom' to raise money and awareness for Assistance Dogs Australia, which trains Labradors and Golden Retrievers for those in need of a little help.

“My goal is $27,000 as that’s how much it takes to train one assistance dog,” she says.

Alice Verrall and her recumbent trike Freedom. Cycle Traveller

“I want to show people that anyone, especially disabled people, can do whatever they set their mind to, see the different natural environments that Australia has to offer, and to also raise as much money as possible as a thank you to Assistance Dogs Australia for giving me my companion dog Kooper.”

Alice, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) at Latrobe University, will be completing a number of charity challenges during her university breaks. It's a long-term project which she began last year and will continue until at least 2017.

She hopes to average 10km per ride, and ride most days of her trips, but her physical challenges are only one part of her efforts. Just as important is the 'awareness' campaign she is undertaking to spread the word about the need for assistance dogs and the important role they play in the lives of many.

Having already made trips in Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory, Alice's next trip will be to Tasmania, Melbourne and Fraser Island during November and December.

“I've already raised $5000 in just over a year,” she says.

“Sadly, as Kooper is a companion dog, not a service dog, I can't take him on my tours because he doesn't have pubic access rights,” says Alice.

Most people are quite familiar with guide dogs used by the visually impaired, but fewer realise the need for assistant dogs in the community.

“... we reckon one of the simplest ways to explain the differentiation is that guide dogs are the eyes, whereas assistance dogs are trained to be the hands,” Assistant Dogs Australia says.

Assistant dogs are specially trained to help a wide variety of people, including those with dementia, autism, post-traumatic stress disorder and, like Alice, cerebral palsy, just to name a few.

How to help

There are two ways in which you can help Alice. The first is by supporting her efforts to raise $27,000 for Assistance Dogs Australia by making a donation via her Everyday Hero page.

The second is to donate toward her trip expenses via her Go Fund Me page.

“I have a gofundme page to help me pay for the trips as I need carers and also so I can see as much of the country as possible we are driving a fare bit too,” she says.

You can follow Alice's progress on her Alice Rides Facebook page.

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