A FORMER Royal Marine whose life was transformed by an assistance dog has launched a new partnership between National Express and charity Canine Partners.
Jon Flint, 38, from Stedham, is welcoming a new initiative which will see National Express provide free travel to people training assistance puppies to help with the process of familiarising the dogs with public transport.
Jon, who undertook operational tours in Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan, walked around with a broken back for ten years before he realised something was seriously wrong after a fall during an abseiling training exercise.
He was partnered with flatcoated retriever Varick who he credits with giving him back his independence. Jon is now an ambassador for Canine Partners.
He said: “It is wonderful that National Express is supporting Canine Partners. I know first-hand that assistance dogs are life-changing creatures.
“They help give people back their independence.
“Before I was partnered with Varick, I hated leaving the house.
“The pain in my back is constant and I have poor balance, which means it doesn’t take much for me to fall over.
“Having Varick has given me my confidence back and our bond has helped turn a very difficult situation into something positive.
“Charities such as Canine Partners rely on the generosity of the British public and business donations and it is great National Express has come up with this innovative way of supporting them.”
People giving up their time to look after the puppies will be eligible to travel free with their young dog to and from any of around 1,000 National Express stops across the UK.
The partnership comes as Canine Partners celebrate its 24th anniversary. National Express has also set up a tab enabling people to donate as they book online.