Posted 1 month ago in the Our partnerships category
Stephen Brookes, 44
In 2008, my world changed dramatically when a motorbike accident left me with a life-changing spinal cord injury. I am paralysed from the shoulders down, which means that I need to use a wheelchair full-time and require 24-hour care.
I had served in the Royal Navy for 15 years, a life that was filled with structure and a strong sense of purpose. The switch from military life to spending over a year in hospital and rehabilitation was abrupt and the transition was challenging. I had to adapt to a new home as my old house couldn’t be adapted to my needs, and the loss of my military career was another significant blow.
I was introduced to Canine Partners during my rehabilitation. Considering the difficulties I was facing at the time, I was amazed by what these dogs could do.
My first canine partner, Major, was an energetic black Labrador. While Major was a great dog, our partnership faced some challenges, and it became evident that I required a different match to fully benefit from having an assistance dog.
I was then matched with Kizzy, a Labrador Retriever cross, who became my second canine partner. She was not just a companion; she was my lifeline for seven years. With Kizzy by my side, I could have a more active role in my young daughters’ lives. Her presence meant my wife, Nicola, could just be my wife, instead of needing to take on additional caring responsibilities.
Kizzy provided much-needed emotional support, helping me navigate the challenges that arose from my injury. Her companionship allowed me to connect more deeply with my family and provided a distraction from the chronic pain. Even at night, Kizzy’s presence eased my nightmares and fears, offering reassurance and comfort.
One of the most significant benefits of having an assistance dog was the boost in my confidence. I could venture outside, knowing that Kizzy would help me if I encountered difficulties. She could retrieve dropped items, stabilise my position if I leaned too far, and even alert others in case of an emergency.
Sadly, Kizzy passed away in 2021. Life without Kizzy, as I currently wait for a successor dog, has been challenging. I really miss her. While I am grateful for my care team, I miss the independence that having a canine partner provided. Everyday tasks, like buying a coffee, now require assistance, reminding me of my dependence on others.
As I get older, my need for support will only increase. I know that I will always need a canine partner by my side.