Meet Wren and Darcey

Posted 3 months ago in the Our partnerships category

Meet Wren and Darcey

My name is Wren and I’m partnered with seven-year-old Golden Retriever, Darcey – I’m 31 years old and I live in Hampshire.

Since I was a child, I’ve struggled with health problems, but I didn’t become disabled until later in life. In 2012, I had a bout of glandular fever. Following on from that I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and then later on Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, and then a few years later on with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. During that time, my mobility, fatigue levels and pain levels got worse. 

I was unable to live anything like what I had envisaged my life to be. My joints dislocate regularly, I have to wear braces, splints and supports, and be very careful about how I move. I often have to use a wheelchair or on better days I use my crutch. If I over-exert myself, stand up too quickly or if I’m upright for too long, I either pass out or I get very dizzy and very unwell. My fatigue and pain levels are very high so I’m dealing with exhaustion daily. 

I need help doing the physical things that are part of daily living, like folding laundry and putting it away because there’s so much standing up, bending over, and moving which can cause issues. When I was at my lowest, I couldn’t do anything – I couldn’t cook for myself, I needed assistance showering and I rarely left the house. It was incredibly isolating and my world shrunk to the size of my flat. Everything was dictated by whether I was well enough to do XYZ, and the answer was usually no. 

My mental health was at the worst point it had ever been. I was very depressed and very lonely. It was very anxiety-inducing to think that if something happened to me, I’d be here by myself and there would be nothing I could do. It was one of the loneliest periods in my life. I was extremely low at points and it was a struggle at times to see how I could continue living like that. I was single at the time and I thought no one is going to want this. 

I’ve needed the support of either carers or a personal assistant since 2015, which was incredibly difficult to accept initially. This was supposed to be when the world would be my oyster and I would go and be young, do exciting things and live an exciting life. Instead, I had to have people help me do my laundry. 

 

The housing association said you’re not allowed to have a dog in the house unless they are an assistance dog. That’s when I came across Canine Partners. When I first met Darcey, I thought she was gorgeous and adorable. 

I still have a Personal Assistant who comes a couple of times a day and helps with things that Darcey can’t. She helps me do the dishes and fold up laundry, which might be tricky for a dog to do without opposable thumbs!

Although my fiancée works from home, she’s usually busy, so I can’t always rely on her for help if I fall or drop something. Having Darcey means I don’t have to wait for someone to help me out. Before I became disabled, dropping my phone was something I wouldn’t have given much thought to. For most people, it’s a minor inconvenience. Thanks to Darcey, I don’t have to worry about it anymore. 

The most significant benefit of having Darcey is the emotional support she provides. Although that isn’t her primary duty, it has been one of the most significant improvements in my life since I was paired with her. Thanks to her, I’ve been able to do things I thought were off the cards for me. I’m getting married next October and Darcy will be the ring bearer – she came on our first date. 

I withdrew from university, which historically would probably have caused a major mental health dip, but it didn’t. I still have a life and the potential to do more things. I started having to go outside every day because I had a dog to walk and while that was difficult at first, it has meant that I’ve re-entered the world in a way that I haven’t been able to. It’s difficult to explain how massive that is if it hasn’t happened to you. The help that Darcey gives me in the little day-to-day tasks enables me more energy to be part of the world again. 

My disability and my ill health took centre stage – people were asking “What’s wrong with you?” “What do you have?”. It’s a natural human curiosity, but it effectively made me feel like that was all people saw. As soon as I started going out with Darcey, the first thing people asked me about was her, which I could talk about all day. 

Since having Darcey, I have reclaimed some of my pre-illness bravery. It’s very hard not to be careful when you know that everything you do can make you very unwell. I had written myself off. I felt like I would be stuck in one place, unable to do much of anything and just existing rather than living. I resigned myself to that future, but Darcey was the stone in the road that changed the course of the wheel. 

I’m currently planning to retrain as an art therapist. I want to be able to have a positive impact on the world, and that wouldn’t have been even within my wildest imagination. Without Canine Partners and Darcey, my life would be in exactly the same place– nothing would have changed. I think I’d have been stagnating in a very small life and be in a very unhappy place. 

When I first started getting ill, it was like I was in freefall. Everything was crumbling around me and there was nothing to hold on to, I was just falling. 

Darcey introduced structure back into my life and that has meant that I am able to build again. She’s given me back a lot of confidence and with that, I’ve regained my independence. I no longer feel like I rely solely on the people around me – I can be my own person again and Darcy is a massive part of that.

 

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