BRECON minor injury nurse Jo Davies is getting on her bike for two epic charity rides – thanks in part to her love of labrador dogs.

The keen cyclist will be tackling two coast-to-coast rides to raise money for Canine Partners, a charity which aims to transform the lives of people living with disabilities by providing them with assistance dogs.

She was inspired to take on the challenge after getting to know Jo Hill, who herself enjoyed sport and trained for triathlons, but was left wheelchair- bound and in severe pain after a traffic accident.

She said: “I met Gavin, Jo’s husband, through a ride we did from Land’s End to John O’Groats and he introduced me to Jo through social media because of our mutual love of labradors.

“I’ve got two, and Jo’s canine partner, a labrador called Derby, was with her for a few years and helped restore Jo’s sense of indepe-ndence and remove the reliance she felt she had on others,” she said.

“Sadly, due to a short illness Derby had to be put to sleep in January this year.

“Jo, as well as grieving deeply for the loss of her canine partner, once again found herself thrown into having to rely on others for simply daily tasks. That’s when I learned how much it costs train these amazing dogs – up to £20,000.

“The charity works extremely hard to restore people’s independence, and to ensure that the dogs are right for those they are partnered with. It’s an amazing charity that I’ve taken to heart. Since Derby’s death, Jo has been teamed up with a new dog, Unis, and she’s learning the ropes now. Jo and Unis are working well together and gradually Jo’s independence is once again being restored.

“It’s fantastic what these dogs can do such as loading and unloading the washing machine, helping strip the bed, picking things up, fetching and carrying, taking money from the cash machine, opening doors even helping in the garden and Unis’ favourite taking socks off! There appears no end to their talent. And what’s amazing to see is the sheer joy on the dogs’ faces and the pleasure they have helping others.”

The charity also works in partnership with Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion and other services organisations to provide assistance dogs for veterans and those wounded in service.

First up for Jo, who is married to the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, will be tackling the 155-mile Seascale to Whitby route on June 24, taking in the beautiful, hilly Lake District along the way.

“It’s known as a coast-to-coast and involves 4,500 metres of climbing which you’ve got to try and do in daylight hours although I’ll be happy just to complete it. The second ride is one I’ve done before and that’s Wales in a day, Caernarfon to Chepstow, on July 22, again it involves about 4,500 metres of climbing but it’s around 181 miles.”

To prepare for the gruelling rides, Jo has been putting in extra training at home and abroad. She added: “I’ve just been out to Tenerife for five days cycling which involved a lot of hill-climbing.”

This was the first time I’ve been abroad to cycle. At home, I try and get out on the bike twice a week and, if I can’t do the distance, then I’ll do the hills, clearly the only way is up!

Fitness is key for these endurance events, but the biggest challenge is the mental one, telling yourself that you can do it; and although I’ve done the course before, I feel I was fitter then, and not forgetting I was also younger,” she said.

Jo is being supported in her charity bid by Bikes and Hikes of Talybont-on-Usk, the owner of which Keith Lee is helping her prepare for the demands of her two coast-to-coast rides.

“Keith has been amazing and very supportive. If I ever ring up about a problem with the bike he knows I need it for training so he gets it turned around quickly. He’s also hoping to source me a new bike, from manufacturers Specialized, for the rides. Being out on the bike I feel at one with nature, remaining ever mindful by cherishing the moment and remaining thankful for my health and fitness.”

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