Monday, 26 August 2019

Managing An Assistance Dog With A Chronic Condition

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Being a young, chronically ill woman I crave an independent life. After being poorly for over a decade, in a bid to keep as much freedom as I can, I convinced my parents that it was the right time to apply for an assistance dog. Just under two years later I received my phone call saying I’d been ‘matched’ with a dog. Little did I know just how much four paws were about to transform my life. 

Spencer is a labrador-retreiver, and because of this, I assumed he would be a golden colour. So, when a stunning charcoal black dog bounded through the door at our first visit, my first words were ‘I’m not sure that’s my dog, Mum’. After we laughed about the mix-up, I was hit with a wave of emotions and soon realised that he was perfect for me.

Spencer and I have now been partnered for over a year now. I see him not just as my dog, but my colleague and my companion. His task-list is ever growing and adapting with my needs. He helps me with personal care like getting undressed and even bringing a towel for me after I wash. He helps me around the house by fetching the phone, pressing a ‘help’ alarm if I fall and even putting the washing in the machine. He also helps me out and about by picking up dropped items and with general companionship which aids my anxiety. 

Having an assistance dog isn't an easy option, however, and we have hit multiple bumps along the way. It wasn't until we hit around the 6 month mark of our partnership when I felt like I actually started to save energy, as looking after a dog is tiring work. It involved getting up early for toileting, feeding and walks. It involves constant training. And, it involves you to put in a lot of effort both physically and emotionally to keep the bond between you as strong as possible. 

I now get extra help looking after Spencer, which means my family, carers & dog walker can help with some of his care. But in the first 6 months, most charities have a 'hands off' rule which means you are solely involved in their care, so, it takes a lot of energy. It's certainly wise to think about how much 'spare energy' you do have when taking on an assistance dog and also the intense training process. However, this pup has certainly enhanced my life in many ways and I honestly can't imagine life without him now. 


Kate x

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