Meet Stuart and Mary
Posted 4 weeks ago
Stuart from Leicestershire has had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for over 20 years. He was partnered with canine partner Mary in November 2018 and three years later, she is a cherished member of the family.
I’ve had Multiple Sclerosis (MS) for over 20 years. It has changed me from a fit and active man into someone who relies on others for virtually everything. I have always been quite a positive person but it gradually turned me into a grumpy man, sat in his wheelchair, whose highlight of the day was watching Jeremy Kyle!
If I dropped anything I had to either leave it or persuade one of my reluctant teenage children to leave their bedroom and help me. Washing would remain in the machine and post would remain in the letter box. My wife would get home from work and it looked like I’d spent all day doing nothing except feeling sorry for myself.
The start very beginnings of Stuart and Canine Partners
One day we were in Tesco and I saw a Canine Partners stand. I had a chat with the partner and the seed of an idea was planted. I’d always wanted a dog but my wife has always been a “cat person” and I knew that she’d have to bear the responsibility of looking after a pet puppy and all that would involve. That didn’t seem fair. I wondered if Canine Partners could be the way for me to realise my dream of having a dog and also make a big change to my life.
After lots of discussion and research into the charity and what these amazing dogs could do, I applied to go on the waiting list.
The initial meeting
I initially went to the Midlands Training Centre for an introduction session where we could check the suitability of the partnership. Although this was a bit daunting it made me even more certain it was what I wanted. Then I went on the waiting list. I was on there for a while but at that at least gave us time to prepare and Canine Partners kept us updated regularly so I never felt forgotten. I eventually got a call from the charity telling me a match had been made with a Labrador named Mary.
The team drove up, all the way from the Southern Training Centre, to meet me. I didn’t know what to expect but I wasn’t to be disappointed. Mary was a lovely, friendly dog who had actually completed the first week of onsite training but her original partner had decided it wasn’t for them and had dropped out. Their loss was certainly my gain! Mary’s experience made her, and me by default, a bit of a star of our onsite training, as she could already do everything really well.
I’d been a bit nervous about going to the training but I shouldn’t have been worried. Everyone made me very welcome and really looked after me. I found myself chatting to Mary when I was alone in the room and it didn’t feel slightly odd. It just felt “right”. If anything, I was a bit sad to complete it as I’d had such a good time, but all too soon it was time to go home.
Welcoming Mary home
My wife came to collect me. It was the first time she’d met Mary and I felt very proud and excited to introduce the two women in my life to each other! On meeting Mary, my wife commented on how much happier I seemed. She settled in straight away and her calm temperament soon made her tolerated by our cats, if not quite welcome immediately.
Three years later…
Three years later it’s as though we’ve always been together. Mary is always picking up remotes, paper, towels and more. You name it, she’s had to get it for me, although if I’ve dropped a fork half way through a meal it will not be returned until it is absolutely spotless! (Don’t worry, I’ve already got a clean one out!) The assistance and increased independence that Mary has given me has also made me more popular with the children. Every sentence no longer starts with “can you…” which is a great relief.
She gets the phone for me, opens and shuts doors, gets the post and even helps me with the washing. Each little thing that she does makes my life that little bit easier and gives me more independence.
If we go out I know that she’s there to help if I need assistance but in the meantime I can always trust her to make me proud in town, in the cinema or in a restaurant. As soon as people see her jacket and how well behaved she is, they are so pleased to welcome me and her.
We’re lucky enough to live next to a park. Her impeccable behaviour on and off lead has made her a very popular dog. She’s made loads of new friends and so have I. I even look forward to going out in the cold and wet to take her for a walk. It’s got to be much better than staring at the television for my mental health! You always have to look for the silver lining in any situation, especially when you’re disabled. With Mary, it’s easy to find.
Mary has fitted in with our family so well. She’s a brilliant assistance dog, always looking out for me but at the same time she’s a great family dog. My wife and children love her and make a huge fuss over her when she’s not working. In fact I’m fairly sure they prefer her to me!
I’m so grateful to everyone who has contributed to Mary’s journey, from the staff at Canine Partners to her Fosterers and Puppy Parents. It’s hard to imagine life without her now she’s such a valued member of our family.