Recently we featured the organization Canine Partners on Pet Hooligans and you can read all about them at the interview with Jenny Moir, Head of PR here.
We are going to follow up this feature with a couple of articles about the partnerships that have been formed between the dogs and their human companions. Today please give a big welcome to Glyn Jones and Osborne.
“I was a radar operator in the Royal Navy, and was a ‘specially selected’ Able Seaman and as such was selected for officer training as a helicopter Direction Officer. Unfortunately I failed my medical for Dartmouth because of ‘insensitive reflexes in my left leg’ and was medically discharged with an exemplary record because of it. Ironically, in hindsight, it is one of the earlier pre-cursors of MS.
By 2006, I had had MS for a few years and was now wheelchair dependant. I lived in a three bedroom cottage way out in the country. I kept chickens and had a huge garden with butterflies, wild flowers and fruit trees. I also had a beautiful alsatian who had been my only constant companion throughout the progression of my illness.
The need for wheelchair access meant that all of that had to go as the cottage was too old and impractical to adapt. The only property for me to move to, as I have no balance and need support, was a small sheltered flat with no view except the side of a shed.
My dog and I made the best of a bad job. We tried to settle in: we walked on the seafront, which we couldn’t do before, but we missed very much the freedom and space we had enjoyed previously. I suppose a degree of apathy and depression set in. Then when my dog, Bud, got trouble in his hips, we became reclusive and I just stayed in looking after him . . . . then I had to let him go.
It is still the hardest decision I have ever had to make. He had been with me every second of my struggle with my illness. He had been there the nights I had cried myself to sleep and he had been my constant companion. Now I was alone.
I then sank into depression. I couldn’t go out alone. I felt scared somehow and even made all sorts of excuses to my carers to get them to go to the shop for me so that I wouldn’t have to go out at all.
My general health deteriorated. I had to have drugs to open the capillaries in my legs but despite this I developed leg ulcers. My breathing got so bad I was given a ventilator but I still had to get up for two hours in the middle of the night panicking about my breathing. You get even more scared when you’re totally alone.
My carers and friends all expressed their worries about me: my colour, my health, my mood.
Thankfully, about the time that I was really grieving over Bud, a friend persuaded me to contact Canine Partners. Just as I thought I could get no lower, I got the call to their training centre at Heyshott! This was real, this was happening. Suddenly things were moving apace.
Then Osborne happened! Suddenly there was hope. I think it was mutually love at first sight. The two weeks training was excellent but very hard emotionally, as well as physically.
I remember sitting in the taxi with him waiting to come home. I realised that the whole of his life until now had been geared to this moment. I realised how special he was, how lucky I was. Tears were shed.
There was six inches of snow on the paths to the sheltered accommodation block. I was petrified I was going to fall at the first hurdle. I couldn’t even manage to toilet him properly in the morning. The next morning, EVERY flake of snow had disappeared – we were in business!
Since then I have been re-born in stages. In the first couple of years of my MS I lost the use of my legs; in the last ones the use of my hand and arm. Now I have a new arm and legs in the form of Osborne. I will not fail Osborne, as he will not fail me. His needs and requirements are my priority; therefore I had to learn how to manage my fatigue around his timetable of needs!
Suddenly I find that making myself more active for him is making me fitter and healthier. My breathing problems disappear, my ulcers heal. He has improved my general health to the extent that I can now open my hand just stroking him.
The things he does for me save my energy for him. I laugh and cry every day . . . with happiness! From when I wake in the morning, to when I go to bed Osborne is there for me. He brings me his bowl for breakfast and brings the post to me. When my morning carer has me dressed, he assists me in the laundry room.
He opens the front door and off to the supermarket – when he takes my wallet up to the till to pay – the world stands still! We are well known, WELL LOVED figures now. People enjoy seeing our obvious bond. Our local supermarket all but shout ‘pick me, pick me’ as we approach the checkout, and I find reasons to GO shopping now.
He obviously picks up or tugs whatever I ask him. He does something new every day that makes me even happier. He even managed to rummage round in a shrubbery to retrieve my phone the other day! In the evenings I have another carer to undress me for bed but Osborne takes off my socks and trousers, and he can do my jacket too, but we’re still working on the shirt! I can hoist myself into bed although I only have proper use of one arm and hand.
He does other little things like picking up and carrying his lead to me, but the most touching for ME is when I’ve hoisted myself into bed and he pulls the quilt over my feet. He is absolutely wonderful – almost intuitive! I owe him a huge debt. I could go on for ever.
We frequently travel by train, visit as many different places as we can. I am alive again. Osborne has brought me help, health, independence. He has renewed my faith in myself. The change in my life has been invaluable. He has given my life structure and purpose . . . and every day . . . it just gets better and better . . . and I intend to be the best partner in the world for him.
I promise that to myself every night as he tugs the quilt over my bare feet before he finally settles down to sleep himself . . . and, I am not alone – EVER!”
I think you will agree that there is an amazing bond between Glyn and Osborne and both offer each other so much in terms of love and companionship. If you want to help the work of Canine Partners, please head over to their website to find out more: http://www.caninepartners.org.uk. Please also watch the video below to learn more about their amazing work and about the training of the puppies.