Canine Partners’ specially trained assistance dogs show off skills in Kensington Gardens

An assistance dog emptying washing machines and opening doors was part of the attraction drawing in a crowd of more than 170 people to Kensington Gardens last month.

Fiona, a golden labrador and assistance dog, was showing off her skills at a dog show on May 19 that raised £4,000 for charity Canine Partners, which trains assistance dogs for people with physical disabilities.

Jackie Kennedy (pictured above), 54, an ex-police officer who lives in Poplar and has a serious neurological condition, was there with her assistance dog, Kingston, an 11-year-old black labrador trained by Canine Partners.

She said: “To me it was magical and I was really happy to see the pride that people have in their dogs, it brought the whole park together and was great fun.

“There was so much love in the park – everyone got on, everyone was cheerful and everyone was happy.”

Kingston helps Ms Kennedy with things like fetching and opening post, opening doors and getting in and out of bed.

Ms Kennedy said: “He has also taught himself to recognise when I am going to have an epileptic seizure, giving me a 30- to 40-minute warning so that I can get somewhere safe.”

She added: “Kingston is a real ice breaker with the public – as a disabled person you become invisible to society and they don’t interact with you but that has changed.”

Dogs and their owners gathered for a two-mile ‘walking dog show’ around Kensington Gardens with six different judging stations along the route.

England rugby player Chris Robshaw and his wife, classical singer Camilla Kerslake, took part in the dog show with their affenpinscher, Rico.

Downton Abbey actor David Robb was also there to judge the Best Ears category, whose winner went on to win Best in Show.

The other awards were ‘waggiest tail’, ‘cutest canine’ and ‘fabulous family’. Children under 16 could enter ‘best junior handler’.

Event organiser Cat Howourth said: “It was a nice way to get the kids involved with the charity work that we’re doing.”

She added: “The Best in Show category was won by cocker spaniel cross poodle, but it would have been a hard choice as so many lovely dogs took part in the show!”

The £4,000 will go towards training assistance dogs, with more than 100 people with physical disabilities on Canine Partners’ waiting list.

Over the past 29 years the charity has provided and trained almost 800 dogs, including more than 425 active today, and aims to train a further 80 in 2019.

The dogs are trained to do tasks like help people undress, pick up dropped items, press buttons and get help in an emergency.

They also provide psychological and social benefits like increased independence and confidence.

The next time people in London will get to see Canine Partners’ dogs show off their skills will be at Canary Wharf on 1 November.

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