Endal (13 December 1995 – 13 March 2009) was a male Labrador retriever in Britain whose abilities as a service dog and as an ambassador for service dog charitable work received worldwide news media coverage.
Among additional distinctions, Endal was described as "the most decorated dog in the world" (including "Dog of the Millennium" and the PDSA's Gold Medal for Animal Gallantry and Devotion to Duty, the highest award available to an animal) and possibly the most famous assistance dog in the UK,. He was filmed by over 340 film crews from around the world, and had a number of world "firsts" as an assistance dog to his credit.
Endal was a pedigree yellow Labrador retriever. From birth Endal suffered from the lifelong debilitating joint condition osteochondrosis in both of his front legs, which brought his suitability for assistance dog training into question. Notwithstanding due to Endal's intelligence and problem-solving abilities he qualified as a fully operational and accredited assistance dog although he was only part trained by the charity Canine Partners for Independence.
Endal's fame led to his taking on the role of an animal ambassador for service dog-related training and charities.
On 13 March 2009, age thirteen and days after his last Crufts appearance, Endal had to be put down as his age had finally caught up to him. He had suffered a stroke, and his arthritis had become severe over time. Endal is buried at Ilford PDSA Animal Cemetery, which is additionally the resting place for twelve previous dogs awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal, predecessor to the Gold Medal. A yellow Labrador puppy named EJ (Endal Junior) was in training at the time, whom Endal mentored throughout his final 9 months.
Endal's owner was Allen Parton. Parton suffered serious head injuries whilst serving with the Royal Navy in the Gulf in 1991, including fifty percent memory loss and inability to reliably make new memories for more than around 2 days (for example, not recognising his neighbour of 7 years), physical disability (he was a wheelchair user), speech and word difficulties, inability to perceive materials that are out of his sight, and inability to safely judge speed and distance of traffic. For a considerable time after partnering with Endal, he was unable to speak and was limited to basic sign language. In 2008, commenting on a portrait of Endal, Parton said that one of his greatest fears was that, in 10 years, he would be unable to remember what Endal looked like. In February 2010, Allen registered a new charity, named Hounds for Heroes, in memory of Endal and to help men and women who have been injured in the UK Armed Forces and Emergency Services.
Work as a service dog
Endal was able to respond to over one hundred instructions as well as a quite large number ("hundreds") of signed commands. He could retrieve items from supermarket shelves, operate buttons and switches, and load and empty a washing machine. He was able to put a card into a cash machine, retrieve the card when the process was complete, and return the card to a wallet.
"When I couldn't talk, he learned sign language – if I touched my head I wanted my hat, if I touched my face it was for the razor. He learned hundreds of commands in signing. Eventually one day, in this quite silent world we lived in, I grunted. That was like an electric shock going through him, he was so excited. They said I'd never speak again, but Endal just dragged the speech out of me." - Able Magazine
The above Able Magazine article continues on: "Over the years, Endal has learned to pull the plug out of the bath before going for help if Allen falls unconscious whilst bathing, and is able to put Allen in the recovery position, hit the emergency button on the telephone and summon help ... Endal has learned how to use both chip and PIN ATMs as well as helping out with shopping, opening train doors, operating lifts, unloading the washing machine and more typical doggie skills like getting the paper."
Parton states that Endal's ability to comprehend his wishes and needs showed when they first met, and was responsible for helping him recover from the initial deep depression and trauma caused by his disability.
Endal came again to national attention in a 2001 incident, when Allen was knocked out of his wheelchair by a passing car outside a hotel. Endal pulled Allen, who was unconscious, into the recovery position, retrieved his mobile phone from beneath the car, retrieved a blanket from the upturned wheelchair and covered him, alert barked at nearby Hotel for assistance with no result, and then ran to the nearby hotel to obtain help. Endal is also:
- The first dog to ride on the London Eye, a giant Ferris wheel.
- The first dog known to be able to operate an ATM card, including both card insertion and card removal.
Year Awards 2000
- 2000 Prodog "Dog of the Year" Award
- 2000 "Dog of the Millennium" (named by Dogs Today)
- 2001 "Local Hero" Award
- 2001/2 "Assistance Dog of the Year" Award
- 2002 awarded the first ever "Lifetime Achievement" Award at the Golden Bone Awards
- 2002 first assistance dog to be awarded the UK Kennel Club's "Gold Good Citizen" award, presented at Cruftsdog show 2002
- 2002 PDSA Gold Medal (the animal equivalent of the George Cross), awarded to animals who have shown outstanding devotion to their duties in peace time (As of October 2010 only 18 animals in the UK—all dogs—have been awarded this medal)
- Gold Blue Peter Badge, the highest award for "outstanding bravery and courage," one of only two ever awarded to dogs (the additional was the Blue Peter dog "Bonnie" in 1991)
- 2004 "Lifetime Achievement Award" (Wag and Bone Show)
Work as an ambassador for service dog charitable work
As a trustee of the charity Canine Partners, Endal's owner/handler Allen Parton, publicised the skilled training which is needed for assistance dogs by using the storey of Endal as an example. Allen and Endal were both patrons of Labrador Rescue South East and Central.
According to a description of Endal by Allen at makeyourdogahero.co.uk:
- "Another more private role is Endal's work with autistic and terminally ill children. Endal has represented the charity Canine Partners, is a patron of Labrador Rescue, an advisor to Dog Theft Action. He has been used to promote a large number of issues to do with animal welfare and has additionally helped raise funds for a large number of of the service charities such as SSAFA, the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust, British Legion and Seafarers UK." organisation.
A paperback book entitled Endal published by Harper Collins was released on 9 February 2009 and went straight to Number 5 in the UK Paperback best sellers list.
Endal the Movie
Formally announced on 1 September 2009 in the Daily Telegraph, Portsmouth News, newspapers and shown on the BBC, Endal's life story, based around the Endal book, is now being made into a £5 million movie.
As reported by 'Able' magazine in 2007, Society's Dogs With Jobs TV series and in the book about the series.
Endal appeared in the Sky real Lives documentary "The Dog that saved our marriage", transmitted 12 March 2009
A road in Clanfield, Hampshire, England has been named "Endal Way" in memory of Endal.
Endal appears in the ITV documentary "The secret life of Dogs" transmitted on ITV.
The Endal awards have been created to honour his loyalty and devotion to duty, in the form of a medal and these are issued at an annual award ceremony held at the London Pet Show.
Endal appears on National Geographic and additionally on Virgin Atlantic's factual media channel throughout September 2013.
Other personality attributes
Allen reports that alongside Endal's working life and training, he retained throughout his life a number of the mischievous traits that labradors are known for. As examples he cites that Endal would still decide at times to chase squirrels in the park, or might take waste paper out of the rubbish bin to Allen, in order to gain a reward for "picking it up from the floor".