Meet Hazel, from Shropshire
Posted 5 months ago in the Our partnerships category
Hazel has Osteoporosis and Arthritis, meaning her bones break very easily and her joints don't support her. Her life was transformed when she was partnered with canine partner Questa.
Hazel was partnered with canine partner Questa in March 2018. This is her story:
I have multiple conditions, which means I can’t walk very far without getting out of breath, I break bones very easily, and I have problems with my joints where they don’t support me and I fall over a lot. I can’t go very far at all if I walk, so I use a wheelchair.
When I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis my bones were very brittle so I couldn’t horse ride anymore and my asthma meant I couldn’t swim anymore either. I then took up bowls, as I could just walk a little way to bowl, which I really enjoyed. However, I then broke my back and had to give that up too. My conditions have affected everything in my life.
I struggled every day but I wouldn’t give in – I would still go out in my wheelchair to see people in my village and to go to clubs, but everything was very hard. Getting dressed, getting in to my wheelchair and even getting out of my own front door and closing it behind me was difficult. It really made my joints hurt to do little simple things which made them a marathon task.
I pushed myself and made myself go out to join in with things. I live in a very friendly village so I very quickly got into village life with some good people around me to support me. My daughter also lives just around the corner, so she brought me food and would help me with things I couldn’t do on my own. I always had to have someone here when I had a shower, just in case I needed help. I really didn’t like that as I prefer being independent.
Discovering Canine Partners
My friend has a canine partner and he is absolutely brilliant, so they inspired me to apply for one. It was a long wait, which was difficult, but Canine Partners kept in touch throughout which was nice. The first time I met Questa it was wonderful. She had this cute little face and eyes that just stared at me. She sat next to me and we looked at each other – I think we just loved each other straight away. During our training course she did all the tasks really well and was eager to please.
When I brought Questa home, we went for a walk to our local sports centre. It usually only takes 15 minutes but it must have taken us over half an hour because everyone in the village stopped to say hello to my new amazing assistance dog. People actually spoke to me rather than to the person I was with, which was brilliant.
Shutting that front door is no longer a problem as I can go out the door and Questa will shut it for me. Just those little things are fantastic. I can have a shower on my own now because Questa will get the phone for me. I feel safe and secure enough with her there that I can do that now with no one else in the house.
Life with Questa
It was just after I brought Questa home that I broke three vertebrae in my back and had to give up bowls, which made me really sad. Luckily, we still were able to get out and do things around the village, which is where I saw a poster for a fun dog show. I took Questa along and she was brilliant. That very first dog show we took part in she got reserve Best in Show and she wagged her tail all day. We started doing more shows and we got into Rally – an obedience course run by The Kennel Club. I meet the same people at different Rally shows and so we’ve become friends. The support from them has been fantastic and, because of Questa, I’ve got lots of new interests and friends now.
Questa was taught by Canine Partners to get my nebuliser and when we came home she had to learn where I kept it in the house too. She soon learnt where it is kept! At night I often wake up very breathless and my oxygen levels will go down. Before Questa, I would have needed an ambulance, but because she can get the nebuliser for me I no longer need to call for help. She also can now tell when I am going to need my nebuliser, so I will wake up breathless and she’s already got it for me. She wasn’t taught this by Canine Partners – she has just picked it up from what I need and when I need it because we are together all the time. It’s fantastic as she has saved ambulances from coming out to me as she catches me before I get to the point of needing one.
Questa has learnt new tasks since I’ve brought her home. For example, she will now take socks and shoes off, which I didn’t need until I broke my back and couldn’t bend over. It only took her one day to learn how to do it. She also helped me lift my legs into bed, as I couldn’t do it while the swelling in my back went down. She just steps up when I’m in difficulty and does things you wouldn’t think possible.
We are totally independent now, apart from changing light bulbs in the house which my son-in-law does for me. We do everything together and she helps around the house. Other than my cleaner who comes in, we live completely independently. I came out of my wheelchair in a car park and had an open fracture in my arm, but Questa stayed with me the whole time even when help came. She seems to know when I am in trouble and she will stay close. She came to hospital with me, kept me company, and even put her head on my lap when they were doing horrible things to my arm. With her there, nothing else mattered.
My family, who live around the corner, still support me and I get meals brought to me, but they know now that they don’t have to check on me because Questa is here to look after me. She can get me things, including the phone, so they know I’m safe and that she will get help if I need it. She has also started to get help from a stranger in the park, so I know that if I fall out of my wheelchair I am confident she will get someone to help me. This means my family aren’t so worried about me going to the park on my own.
She is so good and so happy all of the time that I can’t be miserable, because she’ll just look at me and wag her tail which makes me feel so happy. I wouldn’t change her for the world. When I asked for a dog, I did ask for a yellow or golden dog but then I got Questa who is black. But if you offered me a yellow dog now I wouldn’t swap her – there is no way I would give her up for anything. She is fantastic and just the right dog for me.