Meet Jackie, from Northamptonshire

Posted 1 year ago in the Our partnerships category

Jackie has MS and was partnered with Babs in July 2015.

Jackie and canine partner assistance dog Babs

I have lived with MS since the age of 22 and I have used a powered wheelchair since I was about 31. I live with constant pain and fatigue. I have had many work guises over the years, starting as a dancer, then a beauty therapist and more recently as an advocate for disabled people and as a bereavement counsellor. My working life has changed a lot because of this horrible disease.

During 2012 I met another lady with MS who had a canine partner and I was very interested in applying for one myself but felt it was not the right time. My condition continued to deteriorate. I found I was no longer able to work in the same way as I had and was becoming more dependent on my husband to do things for me.

It was during September 2014 that I decided I would apply for a canine partner. I was fortunate to be able to go for an assessment after about four months, and about six months later I had the call to say I had been matched with Babs. I was so excited, but also very nervous. I felt as though I was expecting another child and had all the anxieties that go with that.

The time came for our two-week residential course at Heyshott. Ian dropped me off and returned home leaving me to it – scary stuff. The facilities at Heyshott are fabulous and I felt very well looked after by all the staff. There were two other people on the course at the same time as me and we became firm friends. We also had two amazing trainers – Els and Julia.

The fortnight was extremely challenging and tiring but our days were set out to make sure all of our needs were completely supported and met. We were also very well fed and all ended up putting on weight with Wendy’s fantastic cooking.

It was not until we got home that our partnership was able to move to a level of understanding, trust and love. Within six months our partnership was truly sealed and we settled into our usual routines.

Babs and I start the day with her asking to go out. Then she has her breakfast, returning her bowl to me when she has finished. When I am ready to get dressed I ask her to open drawers for me and fetch my clothes. She brings them to me reasonably willingly but will look to see if there is a treat at the end of it.

When we are ready for the day, she removes my slippers and fetches my shoes. We usually go off for a morning walk in the park where she can run free and have fun with other dogs. She loves chasing her ball and having a dip in the boating lake. When we return home we will have a rest and I might do some work on the computer.

If it’s laundry day she will help me sort my laundry by dropping items into piles, then she will pass the clothes to me to carry down to the washing machine. She hasn’t quite mastered putting the clothes into the machine but she is fantastic at getting them out when the washing is done. She will open the machine door and passed me the items one by one which I then put into a wheeled basket to take outside to put on the line. If I drop any clothes or pegs she is happy to pick them up for me.

During the day she will help me by retrieving items that I constantly drop and she will fetch the post. Babs will open and close doors for me and I have taught her to take the milk out of the fridge when I want a cup of tea.

If we go to the shops she is also able to get milk out of the big crates and pass me items from the lower shelves that I am unable to reach. Unfortunately, neither of us can reach items on the top shelves, so unless Canine Partners introduce giraffe partners I shall sometimes have to continue to ask for help from other people!

I work as a bereavement counsellor once or twice a week and I will take Babs on the bus to meet clients. I find she brings a calming focus to the meetings, particularly with new clients. Babs also comes to church with me on Sundays where she settles quietly at the back of the pews. Wherever we go she is always noticed and fallen in love with. I find people always say hello to her before they even look at me, so we know who’s the most beautiful there then, don’t we?

In the evenings I am usually very tired and in a lot of pain so will usually be found laying on the settee soon after 6pm. Babs remains on duty though, as she is asked to fetch me the TV remote, my phone, my book and my blanket. She gets on a bit of a roll at this point and will continue looking for items to bring to me in the fervent hope that she will continue to receive treats – she does make me laugh!

When it’s bedtime, I take her out for her last toilet stop and then I go up in my lift. When I need her I call her and Babs comes up to help me pull off my clothes, slippers and socks. Her last tasks of the day are passing me my cable to charge my wheelchair and flicking my legs up onto the bed. She has her last treat and then goes off to bed.

Babs has made a very big difference in my life. Although she is a big responsibility, she provides me with so much support by doing seemingly small tasks. I have been given back my independence. I no longer have to ask my husband to do everything for me and I have a real purpose in life again. I get out practically every day, as I have to take Babs out for a walk and I enjoy passing the day with lots of different people. I am also exercising – a much needed bonus!

Thank you Canine Partners so much for partnering me with Babs and for all of your ongoing support. We really appreciate what you have done for us.

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