Meet David, from Devon

Posted 4 weeks ago in the Our partnerships category

In 2007, David Follett was involved in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him paralysed.

David in a wheelchair with CP Tessie

In 2007, David Follett was involved in a traumatic road traffic accident, leaving him paralysed. He was partnered with canine partner Tessie in November 2014 and talks about how she has completed his family. This is his story.

Three weeks after my 18th birthday, I was playing football and as I was crossing the road to retrieve the football I was hit by an oncoming car. I smashed through the windscreen and was flung into the air onto the road. I was then taken to hospital where my injuries became a lot clearer – I had broken my neck and was now paralysed from the chest down, dependent on the use of a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

I knew it wasn’t just going to get better; this was a life changing accident and everything I knew before had now changed. It was a very tough time and coming to terms with my disability was not easy. When I came out of hospital the first few years were all about finding my feet, as I was still rehabilitating by building my strength up as well as my immune system.

I went back to college and finished my A levels and took up a university course. I then tried wheelchair badminton in 2008, as I have always been a very sporty person, and did lots of running before my accident. I really enjoyed the sport and decided to take it up, and it is through badminton that I met my amazing wife and found out more about assistance dogs.

Meeting Tessie

Through badminton I met a friend who had an assistance dog called Noah, and thought what a great idea, especially when he helped her in unfamiliar surroundings. I then contacted Canine Partners and I remember having the phone call saying “we think we have found you a partner”. I was so excited and was told that she was special, as she was being filmed for a TV programme. I couldn’t wait to meet her!

When I first met Tessie I instantly fell in love with her. She was a beautiful looking dog and as I got to know her it was clear it was such a good partnership. The week I spent training with her was great – she just loves to work and is so intelligent.

Whilst away on the training course an incident occurred where I needed to phone an ambulance as I was very unwell. Tessie’s mood was completely different; she knew something was not right with me and was pacing around the room whining, and when Bob (my carer) came back to the room, he phoned an ambulance. I have since taught Tessie to “get help” or “get Bobla”.

Life with Tessie

Tessie loves working for me and trying her hand at any task I give her. She closes doors that I find difficult because I would have to manoeuvre my wheelchair. She is great at picking up dropped items and retrieving TV controls and phones for me, and she will now seek out Bob if ever I need him for something.

She makes a great companion and it takes the worry away from my parents and my wife – when I’m by myself I’m ok, as I have Tessie. It is also great for my confidence and fitness as it gives me a reason to go out and have a long push in my wheelchair. Tessie loves doing this and it means I go out and interact with people. I’m also in the process of teaching her to push my wheelchair to me in case there is an incident where I fall out with no one around. She picks things up really quickly and just thinks working is a big game to her, but it’s really a great help to me.

I am now doing the best I’ve ever done in wheelchair badminton – I’ve been to three international tournaments this year in Dubai, Dublin and just recently the World Championships in Basel, Switzerland. I’ve managed to get to one quarter final in Dublin and the last 16 in the World Championships, which I’m extremely pleased with, as I was one of only four European players. It’s my ambition one day to represent my country at the Paralympics.

Tessie comes with me to training and is good as gold sat by the side of my court. She has got used to shuttles, sports hall noises and children, and sits there beautifully until called upon. She even brings my racket to me and occasionally helps pick up the shuttles, although not the new ones! My current world ranking in the badminton is 18 in the world in singles.

I now have two children – Imogen, who has recently turned two, and Maizy, who is three weeks old. Tessie loves playing with Imogen and thinks it is fun to tug her socks off!

Now I have Tessie, I can’t imagine life without her. She has completed my family.

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