Winkleigh ex-fighter pilot has been given his independence back by a special four-legged friend

A former fighter pilot from Winkleigh has a new lease of life thanks to a four-legged friend.

Paddy Blair, 48, suffers from severe epilepsy but has ‘a new sense of independence’ after he and Canine Partner Melvin were brought together in 2015.

This was thanks to a partnership between Help for Heroes and the assistance dog charity which pairs up wounded ex-servicemen and women with specially-trained dogs.

Paddy, who flew Tornado F3 fighters in the Royal Air Force, was medically discharged following a severe traumatic brain injury while on operations.

He was left with uncontrolled epilepsy, resulting in unpredictable seizures, and other brain injury problems which meant his balance, hearing and sight were also affected.

He says he struggled with his ‘loss of independence and hated being reliant upon others’ but found everyday tasks difficult to do alone.

Melvin can set off the home alert system, bring Paddy his emergency medication, pick up things that he drops, bring him the phone and pull Paddy upright if he falls.

Paddy applied to the scheme after meeting Canine Partners demonstration dogs at a Help for Heroes Recovery Centre.

Melvin has even learnt to lick Paddy vigorously about 30 minutes before he has a seizure so that he can take medication and go somewhere safe and private.

“My wife recently commented that Melvin and I aren’t just bonded, we are welded together,” said Paddy.

“We go out together by ourselves and have even flown to see family alone.

“Life is so much better now – it is easier, less stressful and a whole lot more fun. I look after Melvin and Melvin looks after me; we are a partnership, a canine partnership.”

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