wendy-torch-bearerThe Olympic Torch Relay arrives in Poole in Dorset on Friday 13th July where Dogs for the Disabled’s assistance dog partnership Wendy Morrell and her dog Udo will have the honour of carrying the torch.  Eight thousand people will carry the torch before it reaches the Olympic Stadium on the 27th July but few will be as experienced as Wendy, who will be carrying the torch for a second time.

In 2008, Wendy carried the torch as part of the Beijing Olympic Torch Relay in London and also had the opportunity to visit China and see the Torch progress closer to the final leg of its journey.  However, her connections with the Olympics and Paralympics go far beyond.

As a teenager, Wendy had her heart set on becoming a PE teacher, but a series of knee operations due to sporting injuries forced a radical rethink.  An ambitious young woman, Wendy became a maths teacher and went on to gain a private pilot’s licence and following a suggestion from her physiotherapist, took up archery in her spare time.

She went on to hold two national records and then In late 1989, when training with the national archery squad to compete at the Barcelona Paralympic Games, Wendy was tragically struck on the head by a discus, causing severe brain facial and neck injuries.

Months of rehabilitation followed.  When Wendy moved back to her native Dorset the full enormity of her challenge to lead an independent life became truly evident.

A chance viewing of Dogs for the Disabled’s work on the television made Wendy realise that an assistance dog could provide some of the help and independence she craved.  Caesar, a handsome golden retriever became Wendy’s constant companion.  He was an instinctive dog, helping Wendy in so many ways, often beyond his training.  Wendy went from being someone too shy to fetch a loaf of bread from the local supermarket to travelling the world campaigning on access rights and inclusion for Assistance Dog users.

When Caesar died suddenly, Wendy was left devastated.  Caesar had given Wendy back the independence she had feared that she’d lost.  The path ahead seemed unclear.

Fortunately, Dogs for the Disabled found Udo for Wendy.  Another golden retriever, this time bold and confident, ideal for Wendy’s schedule which was now so hectic that finding time to fetch the loaf of bread at the supermarket was now a far bigger issue!

Since 2007, Wendy has been instrumental in helping to advise the London Olympic Organising committee on the requirements of people travelling to The Games with their assistance dogs.  Her work has insured that for the first time there will be an assistance dog spending relief area at every Olympic area.  She has also held positions as European Vice President at the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners, a position which she held for three years and also served as a member of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee at the Department for Transport.

Wendy and Udo’s Olympic Torch Relay will take place along the B3068 Blandford Road, Upton, Poole between Pine View Close and Sandy Lane at 3.20pm.  You can watch her on-line at www.bbc.co.uk/torchrelay.

Details of travelling to London 2012 with an assistance dog are available at http://www.assistancedogs.org.uk/olympics-2012/.