Echo sounds out new career helping others

Echo retrieving car keys. Pictures: Louise White d406738
Echo retrieving car keys. Pictures: Louise White d406738

Trainer Heather Johnson said Echo would turn one this month and had been living with her for 10 months.

‘It is a lot of fun. It’s amazing what they learn, things you wouldn’t normally teach your own dog,’ she said.

Mrs Johnson teaches Echo the basics of being an assistance dog, such as picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors and pressing traffic light buttons. She was also teaching Echo how to socialise with people and dogs, and behave in public places.

‘She has to go wherever I go and not get distracted,’ Mrs Johnson said.

She said Echo was a quick learner and would likely finish training early.

‘She helped take things out of the drier without being taught. I have been training her to pick up toys and put them in a basket, so she did the same thing when she saw me with the laundry,’ she said.

Echo will spend the last six months of her training in Sydney. Mrs Johnson said she would miss Echo, but knew from the start what she was in for.

‘You do get a bit attached but it’s not difficult,’ she said.

‘They have a job to do and can’t stay with you forever.

‘But really, you have failed if you don’t send them off.’

Echo is the second assistance dog Mrs Johnson has trained.

‘It is not a big commitment but a long-term commitment,’ Mrs Johnson said.

Assistance dogs take two years to train and cost up to $27,000.