Meet Louise, from Norfolk

Posted 4 weeks ago in the Our partnerships category

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought a lot of new challenges for our partnerships, including Louise and canine partner Skye.

Louise was partnered with canine partner Skye in September 2018. This is her story:

I have Cerebral Palsy so I have always been a bit wobbly. I’ve used a wheelchair since high school, so for about 26 years. I studied maths in Norwich and trained to be a teacher, but life in the classroom didn’t quite work out and despite everything I do miss it.

Six years ago, life got harder as I was struggling with my changing limitations and then everyone in the office where I worked got made redundant. The anxiety and depression I’ve battled with since university was getting worse. The house was a mess as things I dropped would stay on the floor. The laundry wasn’t done either – not because I couldn’t do it but that to do it took ages and was exhausting.  I needed help doing little things but I was worried about being a nuisance and getting in the way. I didn’t cope well with people in my house either, so I tried to get by with help once a week.

Life was scary. Sometimes I’d need to ‘escape’ my own house – I could do it but needed to put my fingers in the hinge just to close the door which was not very safe.  Even then, I’d often sit in silence as my friends talked around me, or get overwhelmed by the busyness of Tesco and leave before I’d even looked at the shelves. I could go all week without speaking to anyone and I was getting more isolated.

Life with Skye

I met Skye for the first time on 13 August 2018 and couldn’t quite believe it. It was a busy, tiring day and despite all the reassurances that I would definitely get a dog at some point, it didn’t seem real. Skye captured my heart that day and we have been inseparable ever since.

Life still gets scary, but with Skye it’s a lot more fun. ‘Make people smile’ is definitely written in Skye’s job description and every day is a giggle. It usually starts with a chin resting on the bed, which is Skye speak for ‘is it cuddles time yet?’.  Find a gap in the wags and kisses and we can get up!

Skye does lots of practical things for me like opening doors, picking things up, fetching my water, and even reminding me to take my tablets – she has learnt the sound of the tablet alarm by herself and will bring me the bag it lives in, failing that she will stop and stare if she can’t reach. That is something Canine Partners didn’t teach! She helps me with the laundry too, including pulling my socks off – Skye loves socks!  I can’t say the house is much tidier but there’s more space. Things don’t fall on the floor and stay there for a week and the laundry gets done when it’s needed and not just when someone else is around, but neither of us has mastered the hoover and all those blonde hairs!

Skye is wonderful, she doesn’t really mind what she does or when. If I’m awake in the middle of the night she’ll keep me company and if I drop something 20 times she’ll still get it. Skye is a cheeky monkey, a banana and my ‘Skye rocket’ – she gives me confidence to go out and a reason to go out when the world seems really scary.

Adapting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic I am not self-isolating or shielding, but I live alone with Skye and my family is 150 miles away. Norfolk is spread out so most of our friends live a few miles away or are in the shielding group so life since lockdown has been very quiet for both of us.

I have had significant mental health issues for years. Right now I’m in a relatively good place emotionally, but I do not like to think how I would be without Skye for company as at times she is the only one keeping me going.  Without her I would not have any reason to go outside and I would only see one carer a week.

It sounds really strange, but life in lockdown is like life before Skye, but with the added bonus of having Skye in it for company.  It’s quiet, I don’t see many people and I try to avoid places with people in them.  Lockdown is also quite liberating for me, in a strange way, being on my own means I don’t need to worry so much about others’ opinions. I don’t have to struggle to be ‘normal’ and keep up with everyone else. So, while this situation is strange and I definitely don’t want to get ill, I know I need to get on with it and live whatever life is now.

In some ways the ‘panic’ before lockdown was worse, Skye and I would go to our normal places for our normal shop or whatever and we were suddenly invisible!  Places were so crowded that we had no space to do what we needed – I would get nudged or Skye would be hit by a trolley. We were fine, but it meant we were effectively forced into lockdown before everyone else because it didn’t feel safe and I was concerned about Skye getting hurt or frightened. I felt crowded out.  Our garden is communal and right next to a car park so I can’t let Skye off lead at home – we still go out to a field for exercise.

During COVID-19, Skye is still my best friend. She makes me laugh, helps me out and holds me together.  Skye has saved my life, there was no dramatic rescue, but I’m not sure I would still be here without Skye around. It seems that ‘everyone’ was complaining and getting anxious about their ‘freedom’ being taken away due to lockdown and things being different and, for once, I was in a group where very little changed.

Skye is there as my helper and my conversation starter. Having her to focus on makes me less scared and, of course, she’s everyone’s favourite customer. We’ve been on holiday for the first time in years and with Skye’s help I’ve gone back into school as a volunteer.  It’s not quite the classroom but I am back to being useful and it could be the start of something.

Skye is settled with me now – we are unconventional and quirky, but we are a team.  We get recognised everywhere, and if I don’t take Skye I get ‘Hang on, don’t you normally have a dog?’. Our future looks bright, waggy, and full of adventures to who knows where.

Canine Partners is amazing, just like their dogs. I still say thank you to Skye’s puppy parent and fosterer whenever I get a chance, they gave us the start we needed.

We need your support now, more than ever, to ensure that when the Coronavirus pandemic is over, we are still here and able to train amazing assistance dogs for people living with physical disabilities across the UK. Your support will help to make sure our 30th year is not our final year.

Help to protect our future today by clicking here to donate.

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