Meet Richard, from Birmingham

Posted 7 months ago in the Our partnerships category

Richard has Cerebral Palsy. We matched him with canine partner Shuter (Shuey)

Richard was partnered with black Labrador Shuter (known as Shuey) in February 2017. This is his story:

My name is Richard and I am 22 years old. I have cerebral palsy quadriplegia, which means the messages don’t get from my brain to my limbs. The symptoms are difficulties with co-ordination, posture and balance, as well as stiff or weak muscles and multiple spasms. I also have chronic pain.

Waiting for a match

Other than college, I didn’t really have anything to make me get up when I didn’t feel like it. I spent a lot more time in bed than I do now.

When I got the call to say I was on the waiting list for a Canine Partners assistance dog I was so excited but wasn’t sure what to expect. While I was waiting for a canine partner I had my phone on all the time, even in college I told them I wasn’t turning my phone off because I was waiting for the phone call!

Training with Shuey

My training at the charity’s Southern Centre in January 2017 has to be the most fun, yet toughest, two weeks of my life. It was very full on.

We had to learn the basics, like practicing going through a door in my powerchair together, over and over again. Even though Shuey was young and enthusiastic, he was also very calm and patient.

Life with Shuey

Before I had Shuey, I couldn’t really do anything on my own. Something as simple as going shopping was off limits to me, which was a big problem. But now that I have Shuey, I can go out independently and he helps me with all sorts of things. He will accompany me around the shops and help me get my wallet so I can pay.

I once asked Shuey to get some cookies off a shelf in the supermarket and a woman who worked there started screaming – I think she thought he was just helping himself!

Shuey comes with me to the cinema and restaurants, and also when I have hospital appointments. He event comes with me to boccia, which is a precision ball sport closely related to bowls and petanque. This sport is devised specifically for wheelchair users. Shuey is never tempted to retrieve the balls, luckily!

When we are at home, he gives me a lot of support with day-to-day tasks like helping me take out my sleep system and getting me up and dressed in the morning. He will also retrieve my phone if I need it, puts all of his toys away and helps me take my hoody off. He basically helps me with the things I wouldn’t want to ask my parents to help me with all the time.

It’s not all work for Shuey though – I make sure he gets to enjoy his leisure time as well. He has free runs, and because we live in Birmingham there are a few other local partnerships that we socialise with when we can. I swear Shuey can recognise another canine partner as he seems to play in a different way with them.

An amazing partnership

Life after Shuey is much less painful as I don’t have to do everything because he can do things for me. I don’t have to hang out of my chair to get things anymore. Even if I don’t have anything to do, there is always something with him I need to do. I was never not confident, but he has definitely made me more independent and I can now do those things on my own that I couldn’t do before.

The bond between us is strong, it’s almost like he’s an extension of me. On the very rare occasions that I go somewhere without Shuey, I still find myself giving him the commands or cues out of habit, as if he’s by my side. It makes me realise how much I rely on him. I don’t think you will ever find a partner that will say they can imagine living their life without their dog.

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