A helping hand? How about a helping paw

Melton Assistance Dogs working with CFA (supplied).

Eddie Russell

They are affectionately known as man’s best friend, but for some, it’s about more than companionship.

In Melton, Brigitte Herdel is helping the most vulnerable in the community to train their dogs to assist them in their day-to-day lives.

Ms Herdel founded Melton Assistance Dogs in 2019. Now, she runs it with Cathie Ashby and Prue Chamberlain, who started as instructors on the program.

It started with recognising the amount of people who require support with their physical and mental health.

“There’s a lot of people out there that need it,” Ms Herdel said.

“I had no idea what PTSD was until I did some volunteer work for Young Diggers in Melton for a couple of years and got to talk to veterans.”

Ms Herdel says financial accessibility is a major influence on the program.

“If you want to go and get a dog that’s already been trained it costs about $40,000 for one dog and there’s a lot of transition involved in that,” she said.

“We charge $500 a year for a person to bring their own dog and we help them train it.”

The broader Melton community is very accommodating to the training, says Ms Herdel.

“We’ve got a lot of the local community helping us out,” she said. “We take them [the dogs] to shopping centres, bunnings, and on trains and buses.”

And once the dogs get their ‘full jacket’ – completion of training – they can go almost anywhere they need to.