With the Paralympic Games due to kick off in a matter of hours, many of us will be looking forward to spending the next couple of weeks glued to our televisions as we watch our athletes battle it out for gold.

And alongside all the training and determination, it seems that there is one other vital component that will be helping many of our athletes in the quest for medals - their dogs.

This is certainly true for Paralympian Lora Turnham, who will be competing in cycling events at London 2012 and is helped by her assistance dog Libby as she prepares to compete in the Games.

"My training schedule at the moment is really busy, and Libby puts in just as many hours as I do, but never complains," says Lora.

"Just finding my way to the velodrome without Libby can be a draining experience as all my concentration has to go into navigating my way there safely."

Libby is just one of the many assistance dogs that help disabled people in their everyday lives, whether they're walking to school, doing the shopping or training to win gold at the Paralympics.

Not only do these dogs offer invaluable assistance to their owners who may not be able to carry out tasks themselves, but they also bring companionship and help develop life skills, especially in children.

For example, many youngsters who have assistance dogs are more confident when approaching other people and are keen to be involved in the responsibility of caring for their animal by carrying out tasks such as grooming and feeding them their dry dog food.

And it seems that the invaluable role that these assistance dogs play in their owner's lives cold help ParalympicsGB climb the medals table this summer.

"When I'm with Libby I don't need to worry about any of that which means I can focus all my efforts into my cycling," Lora adds. "Any medals I win, I will be sharing with her!"

Written by: Hannah