Meet Miriam, from Leicestershire

Posted 1 month ago in the Our partnerships category

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

Miriam was partnered with canine partner Laurel in March 2018. This is her story:

I was a fit, healthy individual running a house and being a mum whilst also being very career driven. I ran most days to wind down from work, raced at weekends and loved my life.

I had noticed when running that my hip was causing me pain and so I saw a consultant who later operated on my hip – shaving off some bone that was causing internal tearing of the joint. Unfortunately despite walking down to theatre I never walked unaided again. Complications during surgery left me with permanent paralysis of my right leg.

I spent months in bed, depressed and heart broken. I couldn’t do my job anymore, my career was over, and I couldn’t even be a mum. Several times I seriously considered not going on. What was the point? I was useless and just made everyone’s life harder as they had to look after me.

Enter Canine Partners. One of my sons loves dogs and so we take him to Crufts annually as a birthday treat. At Crufts I saw Canine Partners and I had a chat to them assuming I wasn’t disabled enough. We talked about what the dogs can do and if that would be of help to me. The key things I remember were picking up items I drop (which was a huge thing for me, many tantrums have been thrown over this!) and helping to undress you. For someone as fiercely independent as me, I thought that not having to ask my partner or children to help with this would be brilliant and the most important was bringing me the phone when I fall – which I do, a lot!

After 18 months, I received a call from one of the advanced trainers to say I had a potential match. We met and luckily I was partnered with the most beautiful Labrador ever (I know I’m biased)! Over the next couple of years, with the help of aftercare, Laurel and I have developed an unbreakable bond.

Life after Laurel

Almost six years since believing my life was over, it most certainly isn’t! Laurel and I are back working, we have a Masters Degree and are working towards our PhD (I know I say ‘we’ but I couldn’t do it without her)! We work in Equality and Community Safety, we have spoken at conferences in London, Milton Keynes, Leicestershire and Wales about topics such as Hate Crime reduction, Counter Terrorism and Safeguarding. We have delivered Equality & Diversity training to hundreds of people and my career is back on track and I owe it all to Laurel.

Don’t get me wrong though I still have really dark days, days when the pain is too much and I’m dropping everything I try and hold, these used to be my worst days but Laurel’s favourite game is picking up dropped items and giving them to me so I know my dark days are probably her favourite and that knowledge alone makes them less dark!

Adapting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic

I am currently self-isolating, my condition isn’t likely to be adversely effected by coronavirus (COVID-19) but my immune system is not the best.

Lockdown has been extremely challenging, especially with children in the house who should have been taking exams. I am an essential worker for my local council, and as such have been working long hours from home. I am dealing everyday with vulnerable people, children whose parents are struggling to feed them, vulnerable adults who are scared of dying alone, or have disabilities that make it hard for them to manage in this new situation. It’s an emotional job at the best of times but currently at times it feels overwhelming.

Laurel has always been a phenomenal emotional support for me and now more than ever she is my one constant. Her routine keeps me grounded and her cuddles drain negativity and worry from me. She is still there every day beside me, helping me out of bed, to get dressed, helping around the house and also passing me notebooks and pens when I need them. I have also started gardening again recently with being at home more – she is a help passing tools, but doesn’t distinguish between a plant I like and a weed, so she no longer helps with the digging! Joking aside, I don’t actually know where I’d be right now without her. She knows when I get sad or anxious and has started pushing her head under my arm to force me to cuddle her. I don’t know where she has picked that up from as it wasn’t  taught by Canine Partners, but it makes me switch my head from worrying thoughts to her and that is worth so much right now. She is so in tune with me. I used to say she was my shadow, but during this crisis she is more a physical part of me.

It’s easy to tell you the impact Laurel has had on my life but it has also had a massive impact on my family; my partner is a partner again and not a carer, my children have a mum back who can take them drinks when they are ill and tidy up after them (Laurel does the lions share of this bit). The impact is summed up nicely in one comment from my eldest: ‘Mum I’m glad you have Laurel to help you because I don’t need to worry about you when I’m at school anymore.’

I’m not ashamed to say that Canine Partners saved my life. The difference these dogs make is unquantifiable; they have changed my life, my partner’s life and my children’s life. They have enabled me to get back to a career where I make a difference to the lives of others so the knock on effect is massive. They have enabled me to get my independence back and my confidence.

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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