Solid proof that Jem's a perfect pooch

TOP DOG: Jo Morgan’s german shepherd Jem scored a perfect score of 200 during dog trials at the weekend. Jem is being trained to be Jo’s assistance dog.
TOP DOG: Jo Morgan’s german shepherd Jem scored a perfect score of 200 during dog trials at the weekend. Jem is being trained to be Jo’s assistance dog. Rob Williams

EVERYONE thinks their dog is perfect. But, unlike other pet owners, Jo Morgan has the trophy to prove it.

Her four-year-old german shepherd Jem was recently awarded a perfect score of 200 at the Queensland Breed Exhibition Restricted Obedience Trial.

The prestigious competition requires dogs to obey a series of commands like stay, turn left or right or recall.

"When the judge told me Jem's result, she added that it was only the third time in 35 years she had awarded such a score," Ms Morgan said. "The win earned her an obedience excellence medallion."

What made the win even more impressive was that Ms Morgan trained her dog while confined to a wheelchair and without her right arm.

"When I was 19, I became the victim of chemical burn accident while working as a leading aircraft woman for the Royal Australian Air Force," she said.

"It was a big life changer, I lost my arm and the acid I was burnt with eventually got into my nerves, paralysed my spine and caused me to have a stroke,"

The 54-year-old has relied on a wheelchair for 15 years.

"For a time, I was locked in my own world - just me and my dogs," she said. "But after some time I decided to get one of my dogs, Caddie, trained to become an assistance dog.

"Prior to the accident, I had trained dogs before and wasn't sure if I could again in my condition."

But when Mrs Morgan took Caddie to the Lewis Dog Obedience school in Purga, she realised dog training was still a possibility.

She now spends her time helping other people train their dogs

Ms Morgan said training her german shepherds in her condition presented its share of challenges.

"I started training Jem on a lead attached to my chair so that she would realise that she had to stay there," she said. "But now when I need her it's just a matter of commanding her to get back.

"People don't realise how much harder training dogs is in a chair. You certainly don't get any leniency from the competition judges because of it, though."

Mrs Morgan said she would have liked to enter Jem in a national trial, but couldn't due to her circumstance.

"The problem is affordability," she said. "It costs me so much to travel in my condition."



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