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Woman honoured for work with assistance dogs

Kotuku foundation founder Merenia Donne with her medical assistance dog Arica, who has been with her for 11 years. - Photo: (C) Craig Bullock Furtography 2017 All Rights Reserved

The founder of a charity which trains dogs to help people with life threatening conditions has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Merenia Donne founded Kotuku Foundation for Assistance Animals Aotearoa in 2006. It now has 14 dogs with handlers that are specially trained to help people with conditions such as diabetes, Addison's disease and seizures.

Ms Donne said she was shocked when she got the letter and had to re-read it several times to make sure it actually had her name on it.

She was thrilled to be honoured in this way for her charity, she said.

"For me I saw that invitation to accept the nomination as a reflection of everybody - the efforts of everyone involved in our charity. I certainly adhere to the saying, 'There's no 'I' in 'team'," she said.

She hoped the recognition would boost the awareness of the charity and increase funding for training the dogs and researching techniques and initiatives.

"My world is helping other people and seeing the changes that our dogs make - having the huge privilege and honour of people sharing their lives with us that need our help," she said.

"And not only that [but] the most amazing team of people who have come on board right from the word go. Not a single person we've approached has ever said no and not a single person involved with our charity is paid."

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