Meet David, from South Yorkshire

Posted 4 weeks ago in the Our partnerships category

David has Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM) and was partnered with Labrador Murphy in May 2017. This is his story.

David has Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM) and was partnered with Labrador Murphy in May 2017. This is his story.

My name is David and I have Sporadic Inclusion Body Myositis (sIBM), which is a chronic neuro muscular atrophy. In brief, the muscles in my arms, legs, shoulders and hands progressively waste to the point where I can no longer use them. The throat muscles are also compromised, which brings in difficulty with swallowing. The timing and the worst effects of the disease vary from patient to patient, but usually result in severe disability and care dependency.

sIBM erodes physical ability slowly but surely. At first every day things such as walking up steps, reaching for things, dressing and undressing, bathing and going to the toilet become difficult. As the disease progresses, these things become impossible without assistance. Such things hit me psychologically as well as physically. My muscles continue to waste and increasingly my body becomes a prisoner to gravity, heavy and immobile.

Discovering Canine Partners

My wife, Lesley, first alerted me to Canine Partners having seen the wonderful dogs on the internet and the extent to which they can assist a person with a physical disability such as I have.

I eventually decided to apply having seen Canine Partners at the Naidex exhibition in Birmingham.

Meeting Murphy

My first experience of Murphy was when I was invited to attend a session at the Midlands Training Centre in Osgathorpe, Leicestershire. It was a basic introduction to the training commands and to understand the different characteristics of individual dogs. I learnt that some dogs present enthusiastically and boldly, others gently and quietly.

Murphy was the very first dog attached to my wheelchair as I was taught the basic commands. Although I met several other dogs that day, all equally wonderful, Murphy was my favourite. He was so eager to assist and he was so very happy. He looked at me intently and his tail never once stopped wagging.

About a year or so later, I was given the opportunity to be partnered with Murphy. When I was reacquainted with him at the Midlands Training Centre, knowing that I may actually be partnered with him, my emotions were love and happiness followed by a little bit of trepidation that the extent of my disability might prevent a viable partnership.

On-site training

I did not underestimate the intensity of the onsite training course. However, I had very much underestimated the fatigue caused to myself by the pace and the basic physical aspects of the training. Towards the close of the first week, I became worried that I wouldn’t be able to progress with my partnership as it would be impossible for me to effectively care for Murphy’s needs in the future.

Despite assurances from the very understanding staff, we returned home without Murphy. Things were very glum, as I so missed him. I felt that I had let the poor chap down and couldn’t stop thinking of him.

After a few days back at home, I had an accident when I was by myself. I was clumsily leaning forward to pick up my phone charger cable and fell out of my chair, injured my hand and was taken to hospital. As we sat in the A&E waiting room, we reflected upon that this was the fourth accident that had occurred over the past five or six years, including a broken collar bone and concussion. All were due to trying to do everyday, very basic stuff that my body would no longer let me do. The more recent event made me realise how things could be so much better if Murphy had been by my side.

The same day, I phoned Canine Partners and asked if I could complete my training with some additional input from Lesley to cover those vital aspects that I couldn’t manage for Murphy by myself, which included feeding and toileting area hygiene. It’s called a team placement when a member of your family helps you to care for your canine partner. We returned to complete the training, where the trainer Ann was excellent in her kind instruction to both Lesley and I. Murphy was, as ever, helpful and accommodating and Lesley and I were overjoyed to be reunited with Murphy.

Life with Murphy by my side

Murphy can’t assist me in all areas of my disability, but what he can do is brilliant. Murphy assists me with picking things up when I can’t reach them, for example the daily post, remote controls and light switches. He opens doors for me so I can get about the bungalow and outside in my wheelchair. He does them with such care and enthusiasm. One of the most remarkable things he does is the gentle lifting of my arms should they fall from the side of my wheelchair or bed.

I will not be the only partner to mention that special intuition that my canine partner has in just knowing when the dark grey cloud of depression visits. He lifts me back out of this by a careful touch of his nose to my hand. He offers me his paw and he gives me a kiss – job done.

Having Murphy with me today is a great privilege. He and I are together throughout the day and I no longer have to worry if I drop things, which is very frequent due to my very limited mobility. Murphy is always there to pass me my glasses, pick up the post or reposition my feet on the footplate should they become too uncomfortable.

The summer of 2018 gave us days and days of sunshine. Murphy and I spent these days together in our beautiful garden. Murphy by my side being so attentive to my needs, bringing me my magazines, picking up things that may have dropped off my lap, and best of all him simply resting his head upon my lap as we gently watch the day go by.

Lesley and I love to take Murphy out to the local park where he can run about and enjoy himself. It is lovely to see him having fun in his ‘daft dog’ mode before once again eagerly accepting his assistance dog duties. Murphy will never cease to amaze us.

Simply, we love him.

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