My name is Rebecca, I’m 27 years old and I have Cerebral Palsy. I’m a full time wheelchair user and my disability affects the use of all of my limbs, which means I need a high level of personal care with day-to-day tasks.
My attitude is that my disability is part of me and I’m certainly not ashamed of it, but it has created a lot of barriers in my life, and I’m significantly reliant upon physical help. I’m not the type of person who will sit and watch the world go by, I’ve always wanted to participate, but my ability to do this has certainly been restricted by my condition.
I had a really difficult time for many years because of my disability. I faced verbal abuse and I was bullied when I was younger. I always felt as if the world didn’t understand that my disability was a purely physical one, and I faced a lot of judgement about what my capability level was. This judgement had a huge impact on my self-esteem. Although I was someone with dreams and aspirations, the world still just saw me as someone in a wheelchair.
Life was incredibly painful, and I say that as someone who always tries to look at the positives. It’s not an exaggeration to say that I hated life for a long time, and the most powerful thing I can say is that Gregg has turned that around completely.
Life was transformed for Rebecca when she was partnered with Gregg in 2018.
I first found out about Canine Partners through a talk that they did at my college, telling us all about the charity and the things that their dogs can do. I have always loved dogs and had always wanted one. When I heard that I could get a dog and have one that could support me on a day-to-day basis, I was itching to get one!
When I met Gregg for the first time I was so excited because I’m a sucker for a Labrador X Retriever cross! He came to say hello and gave me a big kiss on the face straight away and I knew that he would be great for me. He’s just the right amount of clever, loving and goofy and I really believe we are the perfect match.
Gregg is there for me every morning to help me get out of bed and get dressed, and then he will go and get help from my carers. I’m so clumsy and I drop things all the time. Whenever I drop my makeup brushes (which happens a lot!) he’s always there to pick them up, wagging his tail the whole time. He helps me load the washing machine, he’ll take the recycling out and put it in the right bin and help me get things out of the fridge. He’s so helpful when I go shopping and he’ll drop everything into the trolley for me. Everyone says that Gregg wants to save the planet because he loves putting things in the bin for me when I tell him to!
It’s hard to explain just how much of a difference he’s had on me by helping me do these everyday things that most people wouldn’t think twice about. He’s given me so much more independence and the chance to take charge of my own life and I’m so grateful for that. All of these small things seemed like a barrier to me before, but I don’t see those barriers now that I have Gregg in my life. He makes me feel like everything is possible now we can take life on together.
Rebecca’s partnership with Gregg has not only impacted her life, but the lives’ of her family, too.
Before I was partnered with Gregg I had just moved into my own house. My mum would worry about me being on my own and about whether I was getting the right care. Having Gregg has changed my relationships with my family because I have been given such independence and happiness, and they don’t worry about me like they did before because they know Gregg is with me.
“We have seen such a massive difference in Bec since she’s been with Gregg, it really is night and day. It’s so nice to see Bec and talk to her about the amazing things that she’s been doing and not just about difficulties she’d been having” said Rebecca’s Mum, Kathryn.
“He has such an impact on her mood every day and he’s also had such an impact on our whole family. We all love seeing them together and knowing that she’s safe with him. The reliance on myself and the rest of the family has completely changed because now we know that Bec can be left alone for a while if her carers aren’t there, safe in the knowledge that Gregg is with her.”
Rebecca’s confidence and self-esteem went to new heights with the freedom that having a canine partner gave her.
The physical tasks that Gregg helps me with only tell part of the story of how he has changed my life. Before I had him, I was very lonely and very much felt isolated from other people and from society generally. I didn’t have any friends and felt as if I was trapped in this world where people couldn’t see that I was Bec and that I’m a funny (well, I think I am!) and sociable person, and that I have a life to live. They would just assume that because I was in a wheelchair that I wasn’t capable of anything.
Suddenly, people would see me walking along with Gregg, they would come over and speak to me, whereas before, people wouldn’t know what to say to me. Now, people see beyond my disability. To me, my disability is just a small part of me, and the most boring part of me! People see this gorgeous dog and they want to come over and talk to me. Gregg has broken down so many of those barriers and I don’t feel as isolated from society anymore.
I have my own flat, with a full time care team there for support. My life has changed so much that I feel a lot more independent now, almost like I do live alone. Gregg has changed the way that I look at life, and has allowed me to push for more independence, to push for more choice and control over my life. I never wanted my life to be defined by my disability, or live a sheltered life because of it. Since Gregg has opened my life up, he has given me the strength to fight for what I want.
My self-esteem is unrecognisable from what it was before, and I feel much more comfortable speaking my mind about what I need. He’s not just a dog who has come along and helped me out physically, he’s had such an integral part in my growth and how I feel about myself. I’ve taken risks in my life since Gregg that I would never have done before, because I would’ve been scared about what could go wrong. Now that I know he’s going to be there no matter what, it doesn’t seem so scary.
With Gregg’s support, Rebecca’s social and professional life has flourished.
I’ve taken the massive step of starting my own business since having Gregg, which would never have seemed like a possibility before having him. I perform talks to care companies and share my own experiences of being cared for, talking about why it is so important for people to have choice and control in these situations, regardless of their disability. Gregg has allowed me to educate people about how to see disabled people differently and challenge some misconceptions that still sadly exist.
I’m incredibly proud of myself for taking this step, and it is something that I couldn’t have imagined myself doing before having a canine partner. Although the physical tasks that Gregg can do for me are so important, I see the benefits of having him as so much more profound than that. He’s given my life a totally different meaning and allowed me to go and do something that I’m so passionate about.
Despite this, I’m also someone that doesn’t like to take life too seriously, I like to do spontaneous things and Gregg has allowed me to live this way. I have no idea what my life will look like in 2 or 3 years’ time, but that’s fine with me, because I know that so many possibilities have opened up since I’ve had Gregg. Now I go out for dinner, go to shows, I went to Crufts in 2019 and I would never have gone before I had Gregg. It really has opened up my life. Friendships have happened organically now, because people see who I really am instead of my disability.
I would love to see my business take off even more in the future, and I have plans to go on holidays and see the world. Before, I couldn’t have dreamt of any of these things. Now, I think my life is average but in a beautiful way, because all I ever wanted was a “normal” life. My mind-set has changed so much that I don’t see barriers anymore, I just see opportunities. I see my life going from strength to strength now that I have Gregg. There’s even a group that help disabled people go up mountains – who could’ve imagined that would be a possibility for me. I feel so at peace with my life now that it feels that things are coming my way naturally. That is such a wonderful feeling after going through such hard times earlier in my life. Everything has changed for me because I have changed as a person. I don’t think about things or agonise about things anymore, I’ll just go out and do it.